Estate Planning is About You, but Not Just About You!
Like Elder law where getting the care you need is balanced against preserving assets for your family, every San Diego estate planning attorney’s goals are split when doing estate planning. Although estate planning lawyers must first and primarily focus on estate planning to satisfy their clients and help them maintain control during their lifetimes, in the long run, a lot of estate planning is focused on those who are left behind. In creating an estate plan that disperses your assets in the way you want, you are creating a legacy and supporting your family, friends, or favorite causes for their own futures. It’s a noble and wonderful thing to do. It can also be kind of complicated for those who are left behind. Properly using an experienced estate planning attorney can reduce these complications - but you need help them make it easier for your survivors.
It’s likely that when you pass away, your family will be dealing with their own grief, in addition to the legal aspects of inheritance. It’s a difficult time. One of the ways that estate planning lawyers know of limiting confusion and difficulties is to create an organized plan for getting everyone the information they need.
For most people, important information is kept in a variety of places. Some might be on your computer, some in the filing cabinet, and still more in a safe deposit box. Any estate planning lawyer you use in San Diego should also be retaining information that beneficiaries will need to access. At the Weissler Law Group, and a small number of other experienced law firms, your information is also preserved electronically for easier and quicker access.
With all that in mind, would your family know where to find everything? There’s a pretty good chance they would not. I’ve recently been involved in the administration of the estate of a brilliant and wonderful man. It is amazing, the hundreds of hours that have been required to track things down. After more than a year, we are still looking. He never took the time to put in place a map for his family.
You can help take away worry and frustration by getting things organized, and your lawyer can help you figure out how.
Make a List
A fairly easy approach is to start creating an inventory of your important documents. Make a list of the important things your family, friends, or lawyer would need to know—not just in case of death, but also if you were to become medically incapacitated. In addition to listing these items, you should also make sure to note where they are located and include any contact information needed to access them. For example, include information for your estate planning lawyer, doctors, insurance agents, etc. Some of the things your list should detail might be:
Health care documents
Powers of attorney
Medications you take
Stocks, bonds, and other investments
Deeds and titles to property
Information on safe deposit boxes (and keys to them)
List of assets
Information on money owed to you
Additionally, it’s helpful to create a list of all of your online accounts—whether social media or financial—along with your login information and passwords.
None of this information will be useful if no one knows it exists, so be sure that you have told a trusted person how and where to find the inventory. Most estate planning attorneys in San Diego will advise you to keep originals in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe with copies or even just notes in a binder that can be accessed by the person you’ve designated in case of emergency. Committed and caring estate planning attorneys will accept a copy of your list and inventory and preserve this critical information for your family.
While there’s no doubt that creating this inventory is a time consuming process, keep in mind that if it’s hard for you, it will be considerably harder for someone who is not you! Once it’s all together, though, your estate planning lawyer can tell you that it becomes much easier to simply update it when changes are needed.
I hope that the information I have shared here, helps you, and those your care about.