Organize your affairs to avoid the post-death scavenger hunt

On the Money

Executing a will or a trust to dispose or administer assets after death can be sound planning, but it is not complete planning. Where is everything? Who should be contacted? What does this strange key open?

Thorough planning should include an organized guide for your spouse, child or any other person responsible for collecting assets, paying bills or making distributions for your beneficiaries.

Communicate the location of the following:

  • Safe deposit box and key
  • Original will and/or trust
  • Life insurance policies
  • Income tax returns – three years
  • Gift tax returns (if any)
  • Passwords
  • Deeds for real estate (including timeshares) and most recent real estate tax bills

Provide information about these assets:

  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Mutual funds
  • IRAs
  • Retirement benefits
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance
  • Stock certificates or bonds (including U.S. bonds)
  • Car titles, boat titles, etc.
  • Employer life insurance or other benefits

During life, a three-ring binder provides a simple way to consolidate this information. Store monthly statements for a year and as you enter the subsequent year, remove the oldest statement each month. On the cover sheet of the binder, staple the business cards of all key people, as this information may not be listed on monthly statements. Key people include: attorney; accountant; financial advisor; life insurance agent and/or other insurance agents; employee benefits contact; funeral director.

This is a portion of the guide we provide our clients. The time you take to complete this now will save countless hours and frustration and headaches for loved ones after your death.

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