Most people understand the need to “get their affairs in order” by executing Estate Planning documents which often include a Revocable Living Trust, a Will, a Property Power of Attorney, an Advanced Health Care Directive, and a HIPAA Waiver as well as other documents. However, simply executing such documents is not necessarily enough to make sure your loved ones have everything they need in order to administer your Estate.
First you want to make sure that all of your Estate Planning documents are organized and easy to find in the case of an emergency. Often, clients have their Trust in one location, their Health Care documents in another location, and may not be sure if they even have a Power of Attorney. If you can’t locate all of your own Estate Planning documents, it will be even more difficult for your loved ones to find sort everything out. I always provide an Estate Planning binder for all of my clients where all Estate Planning documents can be organized into one portfolio that acts as an “owner’s manual.”
If you have executed one or more Amendments to your Trust or Will, be sure that your Amendments are easy to find and located in the same area as your Trust or Will. A common problem is for your loved ones to find your Trust or Will but fail to locate your Amendment – or your most recent Amendment – and therefore accidentally follow outdated instructions. I often recommend that my clients keep their Amendments on top of their Trust or Will. In the case where there are several amendments, it might be wise to simply restate your Trust in its entirety so that your updated instructions are all in one document and easier to follow.
It is also a good idea to keep an accurate inventory of your assets so that your loved ones know the totality of your Estate in the event of your incapacity or death. There is nothing worse than a beneficiary not collecting on an insurance policy or taking control of a bank account simply because the beneficiary was not aware of the existence of the asset.
Finally, you want to make sure that your Estate Plan is up-to-date and complete so that the Estate Plan your loved ones find is not only organized but relevant and effective.