Get Your Estate Planning Papers in Order.

An original will is the most important document to keep on file.

A will allows you to dictate who inherits your assets and, if your children are underage, their guardians. Dying without a will means losing control of how your assets are distributed. Instead, state law will determine what happens.

Wills are subject to probate – legal proceedings that take inventory, make appraisals of property, settle outstanding debt and distribute remaining assets. Not having an original document means this already onerous process could be much more of an ordeal since family members can challenge a copy of a will in court.

Estate planners increasingly recommend revocable trusts in addition to wills, since they are more private and harder to dispute.

A revocable living trust can be changed anytime during your lifetime. After you transfer ownership of various assets to the trust, you can serve as the trustee on behalf of beneficiaries you designate. Provided you do so, there aren’t any ongoing fees.

If your family can’t find the original trust documents, you are “basically setting your estate up for

Proof of ownership

You should keep documentation of housing and land ownership, cemetery plots, vehicles, stock certificates and savings bonds; any partnership or corporate operating agreements; and a list of brokerage and escrow mortgage accounts.

If you don’t tell your family that you own such assets, there is a chance they’ll never find out.

Make the most recent three years of tax returns available too.

Bank accounts

Share a list of all accounts and online login information with your family so they can notify the bank of your death. If nobody ever takes any more out or puts money in, it becomes a dormant account and then becomes the property of the state.

Be sure to list any safe-deposit boxes you own, register your spouse or child’s name with the bank and ask them to sign the registration document so they can have access without securing a court order.

Health Care Confidential

Possibly the most important health care document to fill out in advance is a durable health care power-of-attorney form. This allows your designee to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. The document should be compliant with federal health information privacy laws so that doctors, hospitals and insurance companies can speak with your designee. You may also need to fill out an Authorization to Release Protected Healthcare Information form.

If you are incapacitated and your family can’t locate a health care power of attorney, they will have to go to court to get a guardian appointed.

It isn’t enough to establish a health care power of attorney unless you have explained to your designee how you would like to be treated in case of incapacity.

Other accounts

Copies of life insurance policies are among the most important documents for your family to have. Family members need to know the name of the carrier,the policy number and the agent associated with the policy.

Estate planners also recommend that you draw up a list of pensions, annuities, individual retirement accounts, 401(k)s and life insurance policies for your spouse and children.

Go to my website if you want more information about the services we provide in all areas of representation related to getting a will drafted, handling any type of trust work or problems, dealing with any issues regarding estate planning before and after a divorce, setting up and administering a guardianship and handling all types of probate matters.

Get Your Estate Planning Papers in Order And Do Your Heirs a Favor. Call today for a no cost consultation to learn what you need to do.