So you have been to visit your estate planning attorney and have signed your wills and other documents. You’ve received the originals from your attorney and placed them in your special place for safekeeping. You’re done, right? Maybe not so much. There are actually several tasks you should undertake after completing your estate plan.
To make things as easy as possible for the ones you leave behind, it’s important you are organized. Create a detailed list of all your assets so each can be accounted for. Some examples include account numbers for financial accounts, out of state property, insurance policies (including those with your employer), mineral interests and business investments.
Digital Asset Protection
An emerging area of property that you should give thought to is “digital assets.” Digital assets can include traditional assets that you access via electronic means, such as your bank and other financial accounts and more specifically, your user names, passwords and security questions. A paper document listing all the pertinent information may be the easiest and most expeditious means of protecting and passing those assets to your beneficiaries. This listing should contain all of your on-line accounts, usernames, passwords security questions and answers. It should also indicate whether particular accounts have monetary value, and whether accounts should be closed or deleted at your death or disability or passed to others. The listing can them be stored with your will and other valuable papers or placed on a computer, removable drive or disk or in a “cloud” with remote access. Once you have prepared this list it is vital to keep it current.
Hopefully, before you designated your executor, trustee and other agents you asked them if they would serve. If not, be sure to do that now so it is not a surprise when they are contacted later to assume those duties. Even if you did ask them before, be sure to let them know where your important papers will be kept and how to access them. Provide them with detailed instructions, particularly about any details that are especially important to you.
Update Beneficiary Designations
It is important to coordinate the beneficiary designations on your non-probate properties with your estate plan. Those are the properties that will pass direct to your designated beneficiaries in spite of how your will might direct your other property to be distributed. If you decide to name your estate as the beneficiary of any assets that would otherwise be non-probate, the benefits will pass according to the terms and provisions of your Will, which may be the result you desire. But by doing so, you may be accelerating the payment of income taxes on your tax-deferred investments. Also, naming your estate as the beneficiary of your tax-deferred investments will expose those assets to the creditors of your estate, if any creditors exist upon your death.
Long term care
If you have not already done so, you should also look into long term care planning. Planning for events that might require personal or supervisory care by others is always a wise idea. This can involve setting assets aside to cover potential expenses in this area or considering long term care insurance. The alternative, relying on government assistance through programs such as Medicaid may or may not be a wise path to plan for.
As a result of recent law changes in Texas, it is very simple to register to be an organ donor. A single donor has the potential to save up to 50 lives with their donation – a very special gift you can give to many others. So if you wish to be an organ donor, you can register in several ways. First, you can go online at www.donatelifetexas.org and complete the simple form. Second, you can indicate your wish to be an organ donor when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. Third, if you wish, you can still use a donor card, but if you use one of the first two methods a card is no longer necessary.
These are some of the more important tasks to undertake once you have your estate planning documents in order. But remember that it is also important to review all of these items – your estate planning documents and each of the foregoing additional tasks – on a regular basis. Keep each of them up-to-date.