Severe illness is on our minds as virus cases soar. While we may be coping with health care issues, there are also financial concerns and emotional needs. To reduce some of the stress, each of us should organize our estate information for easy access and do some simple planning.
Here’s a checklist of items to consider:
- Locate the estate planning documents and place them in an easily located folder in case they are needed. If you don’t have a will or a power of attorney, call your lawyer!
- Review your will or revocable trust! Here are a few questions to consider: Are all the people mentioned still alive? Do you still wish to include those people already named? Have your assets changed significantly such that the gifts in your will or trust no longer make sense?
- The medical directive or health care powers of attorney should be available and ready if needed by doctors or a hospital.
- Create a spreadsheet of your assets – or at least create a file with a statement for each of your assets. Identify the bank accounts, CDs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds (all of which might be in a brokerage account), IRA/401K or other qualified plans, life insurance policies, annuities, partnerships, LLCs, gas and oil interests, deeds to real property, timeshares, and any other valuable property. State how each account is owned – sole name, joint names, beneficiary designations, etc.
- Create a list of your doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and any other professionals. Include phone numbers and emails. Place this list with your power of attorney document and send it by email to at least one other person whom you trust.
- Do you have burial plans? Have you shared them with the appropriate people?
- Prepare a list of family and friends who are to be notified if you are ill. Who might you want to visit (and who would you not want to see)?
- Write a letter of intent or ethical will. Use this opportunity to share your values and concerns. Indicate your hopes for the future. Write candidly and honestly with those nearest to you.
- How will you secure your valuables? Do you have a safe or hidden compartment? If so, make sure that someone outside of your home knows how to get access to those items.
- It is often better to give with a warm hand than a cold one. Perhaps you want to share a favorite painting, item of jewelry or other personal property that you no longer need or use. Give it away now while you are able to enjoy making the gift.
- Pets will need care if you aren’t there. Who will take responsibility for the cat or dog? Pets should not be left alone, frightened and without adequate food and water.
- How will your house be secured if you aren’t there? Someone should be detailed to turn lights on and off, pick up (and cancel) newspapers and collect the mail every day. Locks may need to be changed, especially if there have been caretakers, neighbors and repair workers in and out of the home.
- If your house is unoccupied, the refrigerator needs to be cleaned out, trash is thrown out and water and gas lines checked.
This is a comprehensive but not necessarily a complete list. If you have any other thoughts, please share them with me. firstname.lastname@example.org.