When a friend’s mother died several years ago, they discovered that she had written down exactly what she wanted at her service, from hymns and scripture verses, right down to the silver trays that were to be used at the reception. While we chuckled at her uber-preparedness, the reality was that the family had a big task checked off of their list. Another friend receives a full listing (asset / account, custodian or bank, physical location of documents) of her father’s assets every year; he wants to make sure she knows what he has and where to find it once he is no longer here. It might feel maudlin to think about these things, but this mother and father have both given their children the gift of information and of being prepared.
What can you do to smooth the way for your heirs / executors?
- The most important first task is to have a will, naming an executor and outlining how your estate is to be distributed. Take the time to go over your wishes with your executor so that he or she has a clear understanding. Give them a copy of your will.
- Make sure your executor knows where to find a list of all of your assets, insurance policies, and property documents. That list might be in a safe at home, it might be with your trusted financial planner, or you may provide an updated list to your executor on a regular basis.
- Your executor will typically not be able to access investment accounts, IRAs or insurance policies for at least a couple of weeks. You might consider keeping a joint bank account with one person you trust, so that your executor will have access to cash for a variety of immediate expenses. (Note: while your particular situation may be different, we typically do not recommend holding any other asset jointly with anyone other than your spouse). You may also want to pre-pay arrangements.
- What about all of those online passwords? Again, make sure someone knows how to access your online or “digital” properties.
- Consider recording more than just the business aspects of handling your estate. How would you like to be remembered? What are your favorite memories? Funniest memories? Who were meaningful people throughout your life? Give your family the gift of your story.
To help you plan ahead, RTD created a Letter to My Family and a Digital Estate Spreadsheet to capture the important information your executors or loved ones might need. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request either of these documents.