PKS & Company, P.A. s Douglas McCabe Esq.,CPA answers the question: What can I do now to make my estate easier for my family to administer later?
If you have anything worth protecting or anyone worth protecting, you should make a plan for your estate. Once you’ve made the appropriate arrangements, make sure your family and/or professional advisors know how to find it.
One of the worst things that you can do to your loved ones is to leave them to “piece together” what you own (i.e., life insurance, real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) and make them “hunt” for your original will and trust(s) after you have passed away. They are already mourning your death and dealing with the normal complications of administering an estate. They do not need the extra burden of piecing together your financial affairs.
No one knows what you own and what you owe better than you. So, get it organized now so that it is easier for your family after you have passed away. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
1. Hire an attorney to draft your estate documents (i.e., a will and/or trusts) and then legally execute those documents. Also, review the beneficiary designations on your bank, retirement and investment accounts, as well as life insurance policies.
2. Make a list of everything you own and owe and where it’s located (i.e., real estate, bank and brokerage accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, mortgages, credit cards, car loans, etc.). Make checking the list something that you do each year to keep it current. Tax time might be a logical time to review your list. Then, store it a safe place and be sure at least one responsible person knows where to find it. When the time comes to settle your affairs, the personal representative (a.k.a. executor) of your estate will be spared undue stress. You may consider sharing this list with your professional advisor (i.e., attorney, accountant and/or financial advisor), so they can advise your personal representative accordingly.
3. I suggest storing your original will or trust(s) in a fireproof safe, your attorney’s office or a safe-deposit box at your bank. If you chose to store these documents in your safe-deposit box, be sure at least one other person has access to it. If not, your personal representative may have to obtain a court order to gain entry.
4. Get the help of an attorney, accountant and/or financial planner when making your estate plan. Their understanding of the estate and tax laws and investment strategies can help ensure that you are leaving your heirs with the fruits of your labor, minimal tax burden and that all relevant legal requirements are met.
Over the years, I have seen friends and clients struggle with the pain of losing a family member and encounter serious problems while settling their estates. If only the decedent had organized their estate thoroughly and communicated it to their loved ones, it would have avoided many of these problems.
Editor’s note: Douglas W. McCabe is an attorney and a Certified Public Accountant at PKS & Co., P.A. PKS & Co. has offices in Salisbury, Ocean City and Lewes, and provides audit, accounting, tax, retirement-plan administration, and personal and business financial- planning services.
PKS & COMPANY, P.A.
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