July 10, 2024

I Signed my Estate Planning Documents, Now What?

In our law office, we sign numerous new or revised estate plans every week. Almost every client that leaves our office is given a three page ASuggested Letter of Instruction@. The purpose of the letter is to remind our clients that sometimes signing a will or trust is not the end of the process. After signing a typical estate plan, it very possible that our clients will have some Ahomework@ assignments.

Of utmost importance is that the family, friends or loved ones that have been appointed to various roles as part of the estate plan know where to find the originals of the estate planning documents. In many situations, a copy of the document may suffice, but at death or in extreme circumstances, the court and some financial institutions may insist on having an original document. There are a few clients who have chosen to leave their original documents with our office, but we encourage clients to take the originals home with them and keep them secure. Some clients have safes at home or a safety deposit box at a local bank. Some clients have waterproof and fireproof boxes at home. Some clients leave the originals with loved ones for safekeeping, and some clients keep their documents in a cabinet or drawer in the house. We even have a few clients who keep their documents in a portable locking case (which is great for hurricane preparedness, but it could also make it much easier for the documents to be misplaced). Whatever you choose to do with the originals, MAKE SURE TO INFORM at least one of the named fiduciaries where to find the documents in the event there is an emergency.

It is also important for your named fiduciaries to have access to information that is not appropriate to share in estate planning documents, examples include the following:

Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacist, Financial Planners, Tax Preparers and/or CPA, Bookkeeper, Car Insurance Company, Homeowners Insurance Company, Health Insurance Company, Life Insurance and/or Annuity Company, Long Term Care or Disability Insurance Company, Human Resources or Personnel or Benefits/Pension Department at your employer, Pre-Paid Burial or Cremation Company, Housekeepers, Gardeners, Pool Services, Gatehouse or Front Desk, Homeowners or Condo Association Company, P.O. Box Information (and the key), Safe Deposit Box Information (and the key), Off-Site Storage Sites, Timeshare Companies, Business Partners, Tenants in Rental Properties, Auto Leasing or Finance Company. Mortgage Company, Credit Card Companies, Church/Temple Membership or equivalent.

For all of the above-listed parties, we encourage you to provide names and phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Account numbers can be obtained later and should not be shared so easily for fraud protection purposes. Many clients have put all of this information in an electronic form and update it annually when they prepare their income taxes.

Lastly, make sure your family knows what you wish to do with your remains after you pass. If you have no preferences, let your family or loved ones know that as well. Although burial or traditional cremation are common, other options exist, such as water cremation or donating your body to science. Letting your family know your wishes in advance makes things easier in a difficult time. Some people choose to pre-arrange and/or pre-pay for these services. Although that can save money in the long run, such action is not required. Some aspects cannot easily be pre-paid, such as shipping the body somewhere or paying for a clergy member to lead a memorial or celebration service.

If anyone would like to discuss any of the above issues in more detail, please reach out to any member of Revives, Hervas & Goldberg.

Contact Revis, Hervas & Goldberg P.A.

"*" indicates required fields