Estate Planning

Planning for Special Circumstances

Is Your Estate In Order?

by Rania Combs

Are your personal records organized? If your incapacity or death required your loved ones to locate your important personal information, financial papers, estate planning documents, and insurance policies, would they know where to look?

Rummaging through someone’s disorganized records is not an enjoyable task in good times, let alone times of grief. So one of the greatest gifts you can give your family is having all your personal and financial records in order so that they can be easily found when needed.

Gather Personal Information

Write down your personal information, such as your full name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Reveal the location of your will, powers of attorney, and health care documents. If your documents are located in a safe deposit box, indicate who has access to the box and where the key is located. If you become incapacitated or die, your employer will probably need to be notified. Indicate where you are employed, your supervisor’s name, and a phone number where he or she can be reached.

Inventory Assets

For each item of real estate you own, indicate when and where you purchased the property, as well as where documents pertaining to the property are located. If you carry insurance on the property, include the name, address, and phone number of the insurance carrier. If you have accounts at banks or other financial institutions, list the name and address of each financial institution, as well as your account numbers. In a folder, include copies of relevant financial statements. Inventory your personal property such as cars, boats, and jewelry. If the ownership of any property is evidenced by the title, indicate where the title is located.

Gather Financial Documents

Do you have a mortgage or credit card? How about a car payment? Bills won’t stop coming just because you become incapacitated or die, so it’s important to provide details of all your liabilities. Additionally, gather all your current withholding tax forms and receipts from your employer, as well as copies of the previous year’s tax returns in case they are needed.

Reveal User Names and Passwords

You probably use the internet for email, shopping, banking, and social networking. Perhaps you’ve uploaded your precious family photographs to photo-sharing sites or run a virtual business. If so, you are likely to have many password-protected accounts. Prepare a list of them, along with the user names and passwords needed to access them.

Provide Information About Insurance

Write down the name of your life insurance carrier, your policy number, and the name, address, and phone number of your insurance agent. Also include the carrier and account information for medical and long-term care insurance, including the name, phone number, and address of your agent. If you have a health insurance plan through your employer, list details about that plan. Indicate where your insurance card is located.

Reveal Location of Safe Deposit Boxes

Do you have safe deposit boxes? Do your loved ones know where they are or how to get access to them? It is important that you specify where each safe deposit box is located, people who have the authority to open it, and where the key to the box can be found.

Make a List of People with Knowledge of Your Affairs

Make a list of people with knowledge of your affairs and indicate who should be contacted in the event of your incapacity or death. The list may include your: attorney, accountant, banker, doctor, insurance agent, spiritual adviser, relatives, and close friends.

Keep Your Personal Records Updated

After you’ve organized your records, keep the information you’ve gathered in a three-ring notebook. Then, continue to keep the notebook updated by reviewing it periodically and noting any changes. Finally, make sure a family member or trusted friend knows where you’ve kept your notebook so that that it can be easily found when needed. But make sure you keep your notebook in a secure place, so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.

Organizing your personal and financial records is a huge task that can seem overwhelming. So don’t try to get it all done in one sitting. Pace yourself. But get it done. Your loved ones will thank you for it.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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