Making necessary documents readily and clearly available:
This is one of the most important steps in the estate planning process, one of the most difficult and tedious and the one which if not done well can leave one's loved one's high and dry or at least spending lots of trying to find important documents. Of the necessary documents that must be found as soon as possible during the latter days of a loved one's illness and after the death of a loved one is:
- Powers of Attorney for personal care and for finance and any evidence of preferred wishes for the end of life period.
- After death:
a. Funeral arrangements: funeral home and burial site, will and name and address of Lawyer (who will usually have an original copy of last will). It is often worth considering taking on that lawyer in at least an advisory capacity to work through the nuances and facts of the will as the lawyer is likely to have had conversations with the deceased as to priority wishes prior to death. Sometimes there may be an estate document that explains some of the preferences and wishes to the executer to try and steer him/her in the right direction as the details of the will are implemented
b. Name of bank(s) and accounts in which loved one is primary (even if joint accounts)—and check books so that co-owner of account can readily access money during the period after death
c. Insurance agent to make sure insurance policies that will be in force will be acted upon with the insurance company
d. Accountant to make sure final tax return will be done properly and in a timely fashion
e. Investment advisor(s) to make sure necessary accounts can be dealt with and estate implementation can begin for the surviving family and estate planning if they do not have their own estate manager and account manager(s)
f. Trust arrangements if they exist
g. Charitable donation arrangements that might be ongoing after death and their parameters
Some of the processes may take a longer time than might have been anticipated so that it is important to make sure that what amount(s) of available money is documented and where it may be situated and what organizations or agencies have to be notified as to death so that regular payments can continue or be cancelled or changed in terms of payer.
Gathering all of the pertinent documents into one binder or file would the usual way of gathering and making available this information. Putting it into an Excel spread sheet would be another way and keeping that file readily available would be more contemporary way of doing it. Using one of the many commercial products available to facilitate a digital record might make the task easier and allow for easy editing and updating and if done properly make it hard to hack or disrupt the record that may be kept in a digital format.
One product among others I am impressed with is LifeBank™. There are a number of apps for IOS and Android and on line portals for keeping a record of medical reports, etc. There are what are called ehealth Wallets—a la Microsoft's HealthVault, Apple Health and Google Fit. There a variety of apps like myPHR, WebMD and Humana. Each suffers from a deficiency in one way or another. Clearly being on line via the cloud exposes all one's medical info to the "world" of hacking—now so widespread and pervasive. Many of the apps are also focused on fitness. Others, like the Humana, concentrate on a record of claims made.