Unless your Doctor has given you notice that your ‘Best Before Date’ is rapidly closing in on your ‘Expiry Date’, you might not have thought about the most important thing you can do for yourself now AND leave for your loved ones when you depart this world.
This important thing costs no more than a sheet or two of paper, but it is priceless. It is a List of All the Things you know now – but might not remember later. It is a list of things the Executor of your Estate won’t know until they have rifled through your desk, file cabinet and all sorts of places obvious and obscure – so that they can wrap up your estate and deliver it to your rightful heirs.
Think about this: Do you keep your documents in obvious locations like your desk, file cabinet or a shoe box under the bed? Does your family know you also stash important papers in a fake cabbage (or lettuce) in the fridge, a former box for fish cakes in the deep freeze, a secret cubby hole, a hidden safe, behind a trap door, or in a plastic case under a paving stone in the garden?
Our Experience: The Car Guy’s Dad passed on to the Great Fishing Hole of the Beyond a few months ago – without making The List. The Car Guy is the Executor of this relatively simple Estate and fortunately he knew that the Original of the Will was in a safety deposit box – but he didn’t know which Bank owned the box nor where the keys were kept. That was just the beginning of what The Car Guy didn’t know.
Fortunately, The Car Guys Dad kept just about everything in a desk and file cabinet (and a Safety Deposit Box that the Bank won’t release the contents of until some unknown date in the future). It took weeks to sort through all the documents, make a list of possible assets and trace accounts back to their source to see if they were still active. Multiple layers of Government, Banks and Financial Institutions had to be contacted. Each of them required a large number of detailed and correctly filled out forms.
The whole process is like doing a Jigsaw Puzzle, except you don’t know how many pieces there are and you don’t have the box lid to see what the picture is going to look like. This experience has been the incentive for us to make our List of Things our Executor will need to know. It has been a good motivational exercise that has encouraged us to reassess what we are responsible for, and what we can get rid of. If you are similarly motivated, here are some things for you to consider, roughly in order of when your Executor will need the information:
– The Basics: Full Name (‘Fishin’ Fred isn’t going to be good enough); Birth Date and Place (somewhere ‘down East’ before the crash of the stock market’) is just a bit vague; Location of all government issued documents and the ID numbers.
– Burial or funeral instructions – that aren’t in your will.
– The Family: Names and Contact numbers for all Immediate Family; Parent’s full names, where they were born; Spouse – Full name and location of the original marriage certificate.
– Government, Career, Financial Information: List Company Names, Policy or Account Numbers, and Contacts for: Employment, Pensions or benefit plans; Health and Insurance plans; Government Insurance and benefits; Income tax documents; Bank and Credit Cards; Investments.
– Real Estate: Properties you own; Loans and Mortgages; Utility companies you have accounts with.
– Affiliations: Groups, associations, memberships, newspapers, magazines and all those things that will have to be redirected or cancelled.
– Online: Internet accounts and passwords.
– Wrap it Up: list all the places where you keep documents and valuables. Explain what is in those places. Summarize your assets and liabilities.
That is it! It will take some time to gather this information, but it will be as valuable to you now as it will be to your family when you pass on!
Have you been Executor of an Estate? Do you have a secret hiding places? Have you made a List?