People often think that if they have a will along with other basic estate planning documents, then they have everything that they need for someone to administer their estate. This is an erroneous assumption.
Properly planning an estate requires a lot more work than just having basic estate planning documents, such as a will, trust and powers of attorney. It also requires that you think about all of the little things someone might need to know to effectively administer your estate and wrap up your affairs. In a recent article titled "There's More to Estate Planning Than Just the Will," the New York Times details some other information you might need to gather and make accessible to someone administering your estate.
The list includes:
- Passwords and Login Information - For someone to administer your estate, they need to know how to access your accounts.
- Tax Documents - If the IRS decides to audit you or your business after you pass away, it will be important to have your tax documents and receipts.
- Medical History - Younger relatives may someday need to know about what illnesses run in the family.
- Regular Bills - If a company routinely debits your bank account or credit card, an administrator needs to know about this so the payments can be stopped.
- Keys - Make sure someone will know how to open everything in your home.
While the list from the New York Times is not exhaustive, it certainly is a great start. Every estate is different. However, every estate is similar in that the estate plan needs to include more than just the standard legal documents. It also needs to include information about how to effectively administer your estate.
An estate planning attorney can assist you with how to make sure that your estate plan includes everything that is truly needed.
Reference: New York Times (September 5, 2014) "There's More to Estate Planning Than Just the Will"