As estate attorneys, we often have families come in after the death of a loved one and they have no idea where to start. What assets–accounts, investments, real estate, insurance, retirement accounts–did their loved on have? Where did their loved one have these assets? Who do they contact for assistance?
When we prepare estate documents for clients, including a Will or a Trust or both, we include an information form which we call “Key Information.” This is a blank document which allows the client to fill in who their key contacts are–attorney, CPA, financial advisor, life insurance agent, etc. This part of the form tells the family certain key people which they may need to contact in order to gather information or to get assistance.
Similarly, the form has a section where the person can list what accounts, insurance policies, etc. they have and where they have them. This allows the family to “track down” very easily what assets there are and where there are held.
Two real life examples can help. Take Bob and Frank–both have estate plans in place. Bob has a Key Information form with all of his contacts listed, what assets he has and where they’re located. If Bob dies, his family has the Key Information form to act as a roadmap to follow. Asa result, the administration of Bob’s final affairs will go more smoothly. Frank, on the other hand, either has no such form or having been given one, fails to fill it out. When Frank dies, his family is scrambling to find things–going through the incoming mail, reviewing old records, etc. They’ve been left with an unpleasant post-mortem scavenger hunt. All-in-all, Frank’s family is cursing him under their breath for not making things easier–and less time consuming.
Once this Key Information form is completed, we encourage clients to keep it with their orignal estate documents–and to keep it up to date. That way, in the event of a health crisis or death, the family can step in and take action without having to engage in a “fishing expedition” to find things.
Here are a few pointers on leaving this type of information:
1. Keep the information current;
2. Keep the list where it can be found;
3. Tell your family where it is located;
4. If you keep it on your computer, print it out–all the information in the world does not help if no one can access it!