What’s in Your Estate Binder?

Every person, no matter what your age, should have a Will and other estate planning documents. Even with these documents, your executor will still face challenges upon your death. However, you can make the process easier for your loved ones by creating an “Estate Binder.” If you have ever had the responsibility of carrying out the wishes of a loved one, you recognize how challenging it can be to find all of the necessary paperwork and know the final wishes of your loved one. Creating this binder ensures that your family has all of the information they need, and you want them to know, all in one place, allowing for a smoother transition in a difficult time.

You may be wondering what should be included in an Estate Binder. First, in this electronic age, it is recommended that an Estate Binder be in hard copy, not an electronic file. Otherwise, the following information should be included:

  • Emergency Contacts: Include name, address, phone number and email address. Who should be personally contacted upon your death rather than reading about it in the newspaper or on Facebook? Family? Friends? Organizations? Don’t forget to include your accountant, financial advisor, and Buzgon Davis.
  • Estate Planning Documents: Include your Will, Power Of Attorney, Durable Power Of Attorney, and Trust documents. If the original is in another location, include a copy and a note as to where the original can be located.
  • Funeral Arrangements: Do you have a prepaid plan? Is there a particular funeral home you would like used? Include wishes such as internment location, type of casket, if you would like cremation, if you have a special outfit you would like to be buried in, and items you want buried with you, such as jewelry.
  • Insurance Policies: Include copies of all policies and where the original can be located. Policies to consider including are homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, life insurance,disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and umbrella insurance.
  • Financial Information: Let your family know where all of your bank accounts, investment funds, mutual funds, retirement funds, and all other liquid assets are located. Also, include copies of prior tax returns. Do you also have a boat that might be overlooked? How about that antique gun that is worth significant money? It is also helpful to provide a list of all major assets so they are not forgotten and overlooked.
  • Liabilities: Providing liability information can be particularly helpful in identifying creditors. Include credit cards, mortgages, and student loans. Membership information and credit card account and contact information is also helpful so that these can be cancelled upon your death and reduce the chances of identity theft.
  • Safe Deposit Box and Contents: Provide the location of all Safe Deposit boxes as well as a list of contents and where the key can be found. Never put your Power of Attorney documents in a safe deposit box. Your Power of Attorney will not be able to access your box without the Power of Attorney documents.
  • Accounts and Passwords: Your family may need to access your online banking, email, and other online accounts after your passing. Include usernames and passwords for all accounts. Don’t forget about your computer or smart phone if they are password protected.
  • Biography and Family Information: Did you know that there is a place on death certificates for your parent’s names? What if your executor does not know that information? Is there something special you would like included in your obituary? Provide biographical and family information you might want people to know about you.
  • Family Heirlooms: Is that old picture in the back of your closet actually a portrait of your great-grandmother? Is your grandfather’s purple heart in that box in your bed-side stand? Is that chest in the basement actually your Father’s footlocker from World War II? Make sure you include a list of these family heirlooms and details. Chances are, there may be items that your family does not know the significance of.

An Estate Binder is also beneficial in the event you need to enter a Nursing Community or are faced with a disability or temporary incapacitation. As such, the following information should be included:

  • Health Information: Include copies of health insurance cards and health providers. Medication lists and health histories are also helpful.
  • Budget and Maintenance Information: Provide a list of your income sources and all expenses that need to be paid and when the need to be paid. If you own a home and have a schedule of when your furnace is serviced or your home winterized, include this information as well.

While it seems like an overwhelming task, an Estate Binder can be crucial when your family is dealing with a difficult situation. Including even some of the above information can be significantly helpful. When your binder is completed, make sure a trusted individual knows its location and knows that Buzgon Davis is here to assist them in making sure your wishes are met.

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