May 2002 "Spring Cleaning Ideas"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH AND SECURITY
By Elder Lawyers Jennifer and Jeff Hawkins.
SPRING CLEANING IDEAS FOR YOUR ESTATE PLAN
The scene is too familiar. Mom or Dad dies and the kids find financial records scattered willie nillie all over the house. Some families find cash, stock certificates, and insurance policies months or years later in mattresses, bank safety deposit boxes, and deep freezer units. What a mess!
Everyone dies sooner or later. We can’t live forever, but we can spare our families much grief by a good spring cleaning of our records. A clear, simple system of record keeping may save family members many hours of detective work
KNOW WHAT YOU’VE GOT
People collect assets throughout their lives. The largest assets, such as a person’s home, car, and important bank accounts stand out clearly and are not lost easily. However, some smaller assets that a person has acquired long ago may be forgotten or misplaced. Typical assets that are misplaced include stock issued to the person by a former employer and small life insurance policies that were purchased many years earlier. Such items may not have great value, but they may be wasted if they are forgotten.
A good plan of organization includes gathering insurance policies, stock certificates, real estate deeds, vehicle titles, certificates of deposit and other records of asset ownership and storing the records in a clean, dry, fireproof location. Tell your attorney, accountant, and other trusted individuals where the records are kept so that they may be collected and managed after you die or if you become disabled.
Several storage systems exist that fill the records keeping function well. A safety deposit box at a local bank is a popular record keeping system that works well if the trusted advisors can find the lockbox key and are given clear authority to access the lockbox. Another popular storage method is to purchase a fireproof storage box and retain the records at home.
Most records can be replaced if your attorney or accountant has complete copies of them. In some cases, there may be more than one original record stored in the possession of the attorneys and accountants.
MAKE A LIST OF IMPORTANT INFORMATION
A written estate plan summary helps many people organize their records. The summary should include all of your personal information such as name, Social Security Number, and date of birth. The summary should also identify your bank, life insurance agent, investment broker, all bank and investment account numbers and values, and all of your land. You should list the children’s names, dates of birth, addresses, and telephone numbers. You should identify the people, whom you will appoint to pay your bills if you become disabled, raise your young children if you are unavailable, and distribute your estate to your beneficiaries when you die.
You can write a brief or very detailed estate plan summary. A very comprehensive summary is posted in the internet at http://www.hawkinslaw.com/elder_law.htm. Anyone may copy that summary free of charge.
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. CONSULT AN ATTORNEY DIRECTLY BEFORE RELYING UPON THIS ARTICLE OR CHANGING AN ESTATE PLAN.
© HAWKINS & HAWKINS LLC 2002. All rights reserved. Published with permission. Previous editions of this column are archived on the Internet at www.hawkinslaw.com.