We first shared this blog in July of 2011. I hope you find it as useful today as it was then.
The financial consequences of failing to keep your legal and financial documents in order can be significant. As pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, state treasurers currently hold $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets. Additionally, some of the country’s largest life insurers are under investigation for failing to pay out unclaimed life policies to beneficiaries. Insurers say they are behaving lawfully and under their policy contracts are required to pay a claim only when beneficiaries come forward.
Will your family members reap the full benefit of your estate planning efforts, or will they miss out simply because they cannot locate all of your important legal and financial documents in a timely manner? Of course, you don’t have to keep every single scrap of paper, but the WSJ offers a pretty comprehensive list of the 25 most important legal and financial documents you should compile, and make sure your heirs can quickly access, to include:
- Letter of instruction
- Trust documents
- Housing, land, and cemetery deeds
- Escrow mortgage accounts
- Proof of loans made and debts owed
- Vehicle titles
- Stock certificates, savings bonds, and brokerage accounts
- Partnership and corporate operating agreements
- Tax returns
- List of bank accounts
- List of all user names and passwords
- List of safe-deposit boxes
- Durable health-care power of attorney
- Authorization to release health care information
- Living will
- Do-not-resuscitate order
- Personal and family medical history
- Life insurance policies
- Individual retirement accounts
- 401(k) accounts
- Pension documents
- Annuity contracts
- Marriage license
- Divorce papers
The original article goes into much more detail with each, and whether you have or need each of these documents will depend on your individual situation and the various legal facets of your life, but it is a list that commands a certain attention. By putting this all together you help your loved ones to more quickly and easily pick up the pieces and put your plan into operation.
Few things in life could be more frustrating than putting a great plan together only to have it fail for lack of implementation. At Idaho Estate Planning we have the expertise and resources to make sure your plan is carried out according to your wishes. Remember, good planning is no accident!