Posted on August 31, 2007 by

Records and Documents Required by Survivors

Earlier this week a couple of clients contacted me asking if I had a form called and "Essential Document Locator."  I saw the term mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal article on assisting an elderly parent in estate planning.  While I don’t have the actual form (the article’s author didn’t respond to my request for a copy), I do have a list of questions that is helpful:

1.         After your death, will your survivors know whom to contact?

2.         Are your attorney, accountant, financial advisor, insurance advisor, business associates, etc., known and available?

3.         Where are your valuable papers, including your Will, kept?

4.         Have you inventoried your assets?

5.         Where are your banks and bank statements?

6.         What are your various retirement benefits, and who are the designated beneficiaries?

7.         Have you listed your debts?

8.         What internet accounts do you have?  What are your user names and passwords?

The direct impact of a death in the family may make immediate action difficult, so an important part of the estate planning process is listing key personal affairs data (not merely financial information) – data that can be ultimately furnished or made available to your survivors.  Once completed, this information should kept in a safe, accessible place and periodically reviewed and updated (preferably annually). 

Such a comprehensive summary of your personal affairs will facilitate the planning of your estate and its ultimate administration. Gathering this information now can save your estate thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees. 

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