Spring is in the air! After an especially long winter, many New Englanders are spring cleaning with the renewed energy that comes with the first days of spring. After you are done taking out the lawn furniture and cleaning out the hall closet, don’t forget to include spring cleaning for your estate plan by organizing your documents and asset information. It is best to have one file for your important documents, be it in a fireproof file cabinet or a desk drawer. The goal is to put the file in a place where your loved ones can locate everything they will need to understand your estate plan and asset information upon your passing.
Your file should contain several important pieces of information.
- First, the file should contain a full copy of your current estate planning documents. It is best to destroy any copies of superseded documents to avoid confusion. You should also make note of where your original estate planning documents are located and make sure that they are in a place where loved ones can access them after your passing.
- Second, make a list of all of your assets. This list should include real estate, bank accounts, brokerage or investment accounts, and life insurance policies. If you receive paper statements for an account, include a recent statement in your file. If you have online accounts, include your user name and password. If you own assets that have beneficiary designations such as life insurance policies or retirement plans, include a copy of the beneficiary designation form that identifies the beneficiaries of each policy or plan.
- Third, include a copy of your last income tax return, and gift tax return if applicable.
- Fourth, prepare a list that includes the names of your attorney, accountant, financial advisor, and other trusted agents who are familiar with your affairs and will be able to assist your loved ones upon your passing.
- Finally, include any lists or personal notes that you think will help your family through this process.