Putting Your Affairs in Order
by Peter Grosskopf, Attorney at Law, Grosskopf Law Office
A frequent question that we get is what are some of the best tips for putting your affairs in order.
First, I always recommend that people have either a Will, or a Will substitute (more on that below), Health Care Powers of Attorney and Financial Powers of Attorney.
An additional step that everyone should take, and unfortunately not everyone does, is to make sure that all your affairs are organized and readily found by your family after you are gone. One of the tools that we provide to people is what we call a “Location Letter”. Essentially, this is an organizer where a person can provide names and contact information of the key people in their lives, such as their personal attorney, accountant, financial planner, and the like. You can also identify which funeral home you wish to use and whether you have made pre-arrangements or pre-payment.
Additionally, you can identify the following:
• All banks where you have accounts
• All other financial institutions where you have either accounts or loans
• All credit cards that you have
• All life insurance policies
• Any other insurance policies, including house, vehicle and long-term care
• If you have named beneficiaries on accounts or policies, you can identify that
• The location and number of any safe deposit box
• Any other information that would be important for your family to know when you are gone
After a person has died can be a very stressful and difficult situation for the family. We find that anything that can be done to make the process smoother and simpler for them, will be extremely beneficial. If you have completed the “Location Letter” or something like it, the family will at least have a head start on where to look and where to find answers.
So what is a Will substitute? Many of us already have them, without necessarily thinking of them as Will substitutes. For example, if you have a life insurance policy and have named beneficiaries, that is a Will substitute. If you have retirement accounts and have named beneficiaries, that is another Will substitute. The importance of this, in the context of putting your affairs in order, is that in addition to keeping copies of your Wills and Powers of Attorney, you also need to keep records of who the named beneficiaries are on your various types of accounts. It is a fairly common occurrence, for us in our office, to meet with people, after a loved one has passed away, only to find out that their beneficiary designations are terribly out of date which sometimes results in unintended consequences. Keeping all these accounts, beneficiaries, and the like organized, can help you keep your own affairs in order.