This is the second in a series of posts that will help to identify documents that should be part of your estate plan. Even the most basic estate plans should include much more than just a will. This post will look at some of the basic estate planning documents and some techniques that will make them easier for your survivors to find and use when needed.
Without a will, you basically have no control over what happens to your assets when you die. Each state has a plan that distributes your property as your state lawmakers have determined. Whether or not it is how you would have wanted it done is no longer your concern (although it may cause quite a few problems among your heirs).
You must have an original, properly executed will, and your survivors must know where to find the original will.
While there are alternatives to wills, such as revocable living trusts, we are only touching on the basics here. A will may not be the best option for your situation, but it is better than nothing.
A financial power of attorney can also be an important part of your estate plan that can be used even before your death. If you become incapacitated and cannot make financial decisions or transactions on your own, the person who has your power of attorney will be able to handle these matters for you.
What do you own?
It is not unusual for the survivors to discover assets owned by the deceased that they never knew existed. There are many things that will require the attention of your loved ones when you die. One of those should not be having to round up documentation for “ghost” properties that they never knew existed.
The following documents should be easy for them to find:
Any ownership in real property;
Vehicles, including boats and other recreational vehicles;
Business information, such as partnership agreements;
Before storing these away where your heirs can easily find them, take them all to your estate planning attorney so that he or she can get the “big picture” of your situation. Better options may be available for holding or passing on some of these assets.