For January, we are tackling something that we have been putting off for months. We are going to organize our financial records for estate planning purposes. We are making it our personal challenge so that we force ourselves to do these very important, yet simple steps to estate planning. Also, we encourage you to organize your financial estate records.
For as boring as this is, this might be the most important thing we and you do all year.
When planning your estate, the first thing you need to do is put a will in place. If you are married or have kids/dependents then you need to have life insurance.
Those two items are critical and need to happen ASAP. As morbid as it might be, we do not know when we are going to die, but we do know that we will die someday.
For us, and most people, term life insurance is the way to go. It is more affordable than whole life and if you focus on getting out of debt and building wealth now you will be self-insured by the time the ‘term’ runs out.
Having both a will in place and life insurance, from a practicality standpoint, is the best gift you can give to your loved ones.
Another gift, is well organized estate records to make their job easier. That will be our focus this month.
After putting off both the will and life insurance because we ‘were too busy’ we finally put them in place mid-2017. Talk about a huge sense of relief! We literally needed to do that since we were married in 2011. For some reason, we thought we were too busy. Ha! If we knew then what we know now.
Just like paying off a loan, I sleep better because of it.
We completed both right before we went on vacation in case something happened to us. Fortunately, our family was nice enough to watch our son for a week so we had a kid free week on the Oregon coast!
The reality is that if something had happened to us and we didn’t have the will or life insurance it would hurt our son the most. As a parent, that is the last thing you want.
With the life insurance and will out of the way there is still more to do. In the event something does happen, as horrible as that is, you need to make it possible for the Executor of the will to be able to do their job.
If one spouse dies, the other hopefully has complete knowledge of all accounts and username/passwords but most do not unfortunately. Erin and I do a good job of sharing this information but it takes work to get on the same page. If both of us die though, we need to be able to communicate everything to the Executor of the will.
As we have gotten on the same page with accounts and sign-in information we have found that good record keeping helps us today and not just when one of us dies.
Organize Your Financial Estate Records
So, what does this include? As we already have the will and life insurance in place here are the following items that we intend to update this month. These items were provided to us by our estate planner which we suggest using to help put your will in place.
There are 4 categories that we are focusing on.
- Account Access
- Document Location
- Contact Information
These are really simple tasks but so often you hear about incomplete information provided once someone dies. No one wants to make it difficult for the Executor to do their job but it is so easy to fall into the “I don’t have enough time” trap. Sometimes you just have to snap out of it and just do it.
Now that we know the categories let’s get into the specific tasks.
Once you have an estate plan established you need to list the estate as the beneficiary on any account you have. Your estate planner can give you the specific language. This ensures that your hard-earned money goes to the right people per your wishes.
Here is a list of accounts/titles that need to have the estate listed as a beneficiary.
- Checking Account
- Savings Account
- Other Investment Accounts
- Real Estate Titles
- Vehicle Titles
- Life Insurance
Our real estate title was transferred by our estate planner so that is done. The one I am dreading is the vehicle title since that involves going down to the MVD. Ughhhh.
As you make new accounts, make sure to input the beneficiary as you create them. That way you ensure they are accurate.
Just like listing all your debt in one place it is good to put all of your account access information in one place. We did this with various accounts and passwords a few months ago and it has taken the stress out of managing accounts.
This information needs to be secure so keep it off the internet and maybe just keep it on pen and paper. Just don’t let it get stolen.
Let’s set the paranoia aside (rightfully so) though and properly list any information required for account access to all the items listed above in the beneficiary list.
Of any of these, making a list of your accounts and provide the following information.
- Account Type
- Link to online access
- Any other required info such as a pin
I seriously suggest keeping a copy around for your personal daily records and it will save you a lot of stress when your password doesn’t work.
As part of your estate plan you should have a physical binder that includes your will and the above information.
Provide a list of where to find any physical documents that are not in the binder. If it is in a safe then provide the access combination to it.
It is simple but if you go through the work of doing the above tasks yet the Executor can’t find the information then why do it? Make it easy to find but keep it safe.
Even more simple is to provide a list of the contact information for everyone involved in your estate plan. This ensures a smoother process if it is ever used.
For us, everyone lives in our city so it might seem pointless but I can see the value of listing everyone and providing contact information. Lots of people have family all over so it makes sense.
At the very least, you can take that list and when you send a thank you card for a gift you know where to find their address.
So, if you are still following along this exciting subject that gives us 4 distinct tasks to work on this month. It isn’t a final thing never to be touched again. It is a set of documents that need to be revisited every year to ensure its accuracy.
Doing this now though makes you sleep better. I know we felt better once we put our will and life insurance in place. We will sleep even better once we complete these tasks.