If You Die, Do Your Heirs Know Where To Find Your Estate Documents?

So, you go to all this trouble to make an estate plan.  You make sure your assets are titled properly, and there are the appropriate beneficiary designation forms are filed with your accounts.  You put together your will, trust (if applicable), durable power of attorney, and so on.  Good for you!

Now, where did you put them?

Because, one day you heirs will have to find them.

Make sure they’re in an obvious spot.  I have mine in a bright orange file folder in the front of the top drawer of my file cabinet.  It’s labeled “ESTATE.”  You can’t get much more obvious than that, but I also took the critical step of informing my heirs where the folder was.  Why?  Because, when people are upset, they’re not going to make the best decisions.  It’s better that they be prepared.

Also, think for a minute about what your heirs will have to do to wind down your affairs.  Do they know where to find the pet sitter?  Do they know what institutions handle your affairs?  Do they have access to your passwords and keys?  Where can they go to find a list of your assets and liabilities?  Have you made a letter detailing what kind of services you want?  Do they know who your lawyer, tax accountant, and financial planner are?

Take a few minutes today to take a look at your estate plan.  Is there anything missing? Do you have any questions for your lawyer or planner?  Could someone unfamiliar with your affairs figure out what’s going on in your financial life in a timely manner if you were to die?  While you won’t be the one who benefits from this work, your heirs will, and they’ll appreciate it.

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