The Importance of Earnest,… When You’re Dead

by Thomas R. Beveridge, Esquire

Prince Law Offices, PC

(610) 845-3803 x81104

I once had the honor of being appointed as the executor of a close relative’s estate following his untimely passing.   While the first several days were shadowed by sorrow and grief, friends and family soon bonded together to begin sorting through the thousands of material things amassed during his lifetime.   As the days passed and conversation soon turned to long ago memories in celebration of his life, my own mind was filled with confusion fueled by box upon box of papers, envelopes, keys, post-its, loose change, etc.   After sorting my 7th box of old bills from the 1990s, I started to fill my mental chalkboard with dos and don’ts for this article.

The executor of an estate is the person (or, on occasion, a professional company) appointed by the deceased person to fulfill his or her wishes after death.  Generally, this directive requires the executor to find the will, gather all the assets, pay off all of the debts and taxes, protect all valuable property including the residence, assist others to assure proper information is provided to wrap up any tangential issues, and, ultimately, distribute whatever is left in the estate to each of the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s directives.   While these duties seem relatively straightforward, a lack of information organization can quickly challenge the executor with what feels like a series of daunting and overwhelming tasks.

Having looked into the abyss of manila envelopes and age-old utility bills packed into cardboard boxes stacked chest high and six deep, I’ve resolved to provide my executor with a Roadmap to the Beveridge Estate.   To achieve this task, I purchased a nice hardbound journal and a plastic file folder to hold the original copies of important documents.   I also rented a safety deposit box at my local bank to house this information and keep safe any valuables or family heirlooms.

In the first part of my Roadmap, I list my immediate wishes for my funeral and burial. In this particular section, one can be as detailed as you wish, such as including preferred hymns or the length of the services.  My particular Roadmap includes information for my executor to locate my prepaid burial plot and what I would like inscribed upon my tombstone.   I also include contact information for the organizations to which I belong who will want to participate in some way during the service.

The next section of my Roadmap contains current contact information for my attorney, accountant, primary care physician, pastor, financial counselor and all other relevant contacts who may have some bearing on issues involved in the development and distribution of my assets and payment of my debts.    Here too, I include addresses, emails and phone numbers of relatives that may be out of the area or overseas.  I also record and file my birth certificate and social security card.   Likewise, if I had actual military service, any information involving Veterans Benefits would also be entered here.

While my will spells out my wishes pertaining to care of my child in the event of my death, I include a copy of her birth certificate and contact information for all of her guardians listed therein – both primary and contingent.   Additionally, I list several people whom I trust to care for her in the event such guardians are not immediately available.

In the next two sections, I list all of my primary assets, followed by a listing of all debts to be paid, with account numbers and contact information.   If you have a death benefit for any debts such as mortgage insurance, etc., list the policy information and place the policy itself in the file folder referencing this entry on the Roadmap.    Also of critical importance, list and store your life insurance policies and any other information such as IRAs, 401(k)s, annuity contracts, etc., so that your executor can distribute any payments to your beneficiaries.    Here too, I keep the originals of any bonds, stocks, mutual fund information, deeds, titles to vehicles, trust information, etc..  Finally, I include a reference in the Roadmap to my checking and savings accounts in order that my executor may track down and close all such accounts after my death.

All information pertaining to my businesses is outlined in the next chapter of my Roadmap.   Here, not only do I list the relevant information regarding my business, but I also reference any original documentation that will be placed in the file folder such as units of ownership, stock certificates, membership interest certificates, etc.   Additionally, I outline my wishes as to disposition of my businesses and assets in the event of my untimely demise before I can actually transfer any such interests before retirement.

Regarding the actual physical assets of my estate, the Roadmap contains a dedicated section for “Stuff of Value”.  Logically, this area should include a list of any coin collections, baseball card collections, firearms, jewelry, china, gold and silver, antiques, art, etc.   Next to each of these entries, I record the location of the items and estimated value at the specific time of entry.   While is it not critical to list each and every item of the household, may people may wish to list such things as furniture and electronics as well.  If not specifically bequeathed in my will, I include a memorandum (which is referenced in my will) indicating the individual or organization to whom I wish these particular assets to pass.

While my Roadmap contains several other sections dedicated to charity bequests, information updates, passwords for website access to accounts, etc., the primary purpose behind its creation is to relieve my executor of the initial shock and awe of such a daunting task as administering my estate.   Importantly, one of the first directives I list is to hire my family attorney to assist in handling the estate.   My attorney has the original will in his vault and will be prepared to assist my executor to see my estate to its ultimate closure.

If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs, please feel free to contact Prince Law Offices, PC, at (610) 845-3803 to schedule an appointment.  I will be happy to assist to you.

© 2012 Prince Law Offices, PC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s