April 22, 2020
Stuff to do While Quarantined: Fill out Your Estate Planning Inventory
If you’ve known me for a while, you may remember that I created a booklet called The Financial Bridge, Providing for Loved Ones After You’re Gone. Not the happiest of topics, I admit. Especially now that we are coping with COVID19.
Nevertheless, my clients are asking for the estate inventory now and so I’ve updated it. You probably have time to fill this out now. It’s one of those things people procrastinate the most about. But do it for your heirs. Not that you’re going to die anytime soon! But we all will face this at some point.
It may help to put on some soothing music. Here’s something in Spotify I put together that may help: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3zNgDbB0ZxOWNq5RGI798l?si=EUoUvXdxRcCPDwgPZJ2K0A
In my last Stuff to Do While Quarantined message, we talked about getting your financial files organized (https://buckinghamadvisor.com/stuff-to-do-while-quarantined-clean-up-financial-records/). So you did that, right?
Now let’s focus on the estate planning documents. Do you know where they are? Will your heirs know where to find them? It’s probably not a bad idea to read through them again so you remember what’s in them. You should look for a will, any trusts, powers of attorneys and any advanced directories you may have completed. Sometimes your estate attorney or financial advisor may also give you questionnaires or inventories to fill out so your heirs know where to find things. Go find those documents now.
Who has a copy of these documents? The agents in your Powers of Attorney need to have those documents. Your doctors and your hospital should also have the most recent version of the health care power of attorney. Your attorney may want to keep the original of your will. He or she will also hold copies of any trusts and powers of attorney or other instructions.
If you didn’t give your agents a copy of your powers of attorney, your estate attorney will probably be able to send you a PDF copy that you can forward to the appropriate people and organizations.
A Note on Powers of Attorney for Healthcare
I’ve had some conversations in the past couple weeks about the section in your Power of Attorney for healthcare that talks about keeping you alive by artificial means. That could include a respirator.
When you first completed your healthcare power, no one was thinking about COVID19. More likely you were thinking about being in a coma or something like that. If you think you would want to go on a respirator, if the doctors felt you had a good chance of recovery, then make sure you clarify that somewhere. Your estate attorney can help on the specifics.
Review Ownership of Accounts
If you have created revocable trusts, have you funded them? I’m still having conversations with clients who have the documents, but for one reason or another, have not retitled individual or joint accounts in the name of their trusts. Again, your estate attorney can guide you on this, but this is simply done with paperwork from your custodian. Your financial advisor may be able to help facilitate this process. Your estate plan will not flow the way you envisioned unless accounts are titled appropriately.
Review Beneficiary Designations
While you’re getting organized and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, look at any insurance policies, retirement plans, IRAs, anything with a beneficiary designation. They DO NOT pass by will. Make sure you update the people or charities you want to leave these to.
Tangible Property Memos
If there are special belongings that you want to go to a particular person, you may be able to write a memo describing what you want to happen. Talk to your estate attorney about specifics again, but sign and date it so your heirs know which is the most current version.
Think about your family heritage, the stories that have been passed down through your family that you remember and want to share. You’re leaving a legacy.
Some people like to make a video that shares values, stories, images of what you want to preserve. Look through those scrapbooks, photo albums, videos of family time together, Instagram, ancestry.com or whatever makes you you. That’s all part of estate planning and what makes it meaningful.
A digital asset is an electronic record that may be valuable to your heirs. Examples include anything stored on a smart phone, tablet, online accounts like social media, digital photos, emails, websites, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, iTunes, Spotify, electronic medical records, cloud storage, reward programs, texts, online subscriptions and so forth.
Generally anything stored on an employer’s device is NOT covered under estate documents like powers of attorney where you give someone the right to access your electronic records.
First step, make a list of all digital assets and any passwords needed to access that information. Make sure you tell your heirs where to find that when the time comes they need it. You may want to purchase a password management app to store your passwords digitally. Then you really need to have that master password to the storage app somewhere where your legal representatives can access it.
Second, coordinate with your estate planning attorney to make sure your documents give your executor/power of attorney/trustee the authority to access your digital assets. This is less about financial value and more about your legacy in many cases.
Donor Advised Funds
If you have a Donor Advised Fund, you may have set up successors when you first created the account. But I’ve been finding some clients didn’t do that for whatever reason. Or perhaps you’ve changed your mind.
That’s one of the good things about a Donor Advised Fund—you can change who the money goes to in life or at death at any time. You can probably do this online or call the phone number of the Donor Advised Fund and someone can help. I’ve seen COVID19 charities you can donate to on these websites too, if that appeals to you.
No matter who you usually give donations to, they probably need your help right now.
There are apps and other electronic ways of recording who to contact in the event of your death or where your heirs can find important information. But if you want to just fill out an inventory by hand, use this document. If there aren’t enough lines to cover what you need, continue on a spreadsheet or another piece of paper. What’s important is that you write down what someone else needs to know.
We’re Here to Help
We’ll get through this. It’s a good time to get to some of these tasks we’ve been putting off. You may feel a little better when you’ve completed this important part of your estate planning.
History Will Remember — Donna Ashworth
History will remember when the world stopped
And the flights stayed on the ground.
And the cars parked in the street.
And the trains didn't run.
History will remember when the schools closed
And the children stayed indoors
And the medical staff walked towards the fire
And they didn't run.
History will remember when the people sang
On their balconies, in isolation
But so very much together
In courage and song.
History will remember when the people fought
For their old and their weak
Protected the vulnerable
By doing nothing at all.
History will remember when the virus left
And the houses opened
And the people came out
And hugged and kissed
And started again
Kinder than before.
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About the Author
Sue founded and led Stevens Wealth Management prior to joining Buckingham. She is also the founder of Stevens Visionary Strategies and previously has had leadership roles at Morningstar, Vanguard and Arthur Andersen.