We collect and lose a lot of information about what we own. Do you know where your insurance policy, deeds, will, and all your bank account books - just to name a few - are? If you die, all these documents and more must be found and acted upon - or else your spouse and beneficiaries could lose their benefit! This brief retirement guide will help you account for the important items to sort into one location.
Part of estate planning is getting your documents in order - the sooner the better. It'll help you recognize what titling needs to be changed. Also, settling estates can be time consuming and costly and there is no need to put your beneficiaries through undo hardship. Knowing where documents are shortens the time to settle an estate and helps reduce costs. Start collecting them into one place or at least constructing a list of where they are and what should be done about them.
Retirement Guide for Listing Your Estate Planning Items
Wills and trusts
List your executor and trustees and update where needed. Let the beneficiaries as well as the executor/trustee know where a copy of the will/trust is located or give them a copy.
Review the titles to real property and cars and update if necessary. It's possible that the title on your real property is out of date for modern estate planning purposes. An attorney can review and explain and also be a good retirement guide for any questions you may have in the estate planning process.
Identify all checking, savings, brokerage accounts, and their titling. Make sure you've
registered transfer on death statements for easy transfer to your beneficiaries too. Many states have "transfer on death" rules that allow securities and even real estate to pass to the next generation without probate. Nolo Press, the famous self-help legal publisher has a retirement guide to various state statutes on their web site.
Pension and retirement programs(pension, IRAs, 401(k), ESOP, etc)
Record all employer-sponsored programs you're participating in. List who to contact and phone numbers. Estimate present value and the benefits each holds. Remember that the beneficiary on each plan is who receives the payoff and nothing in your will or trust matters. Advanced retirement guidance is to have all retirement accounts name a special trust (not your living trust) as beneficiary and have that trust specify the division.
Benefits due you or your spouse
Find and list if your spouse will be due any social security, medical or other benefits as your survivor. The social security administration has a retirement guide on their web site regarding survivor benefits. Also list any unions you have belong to or other states where you have lived as long forgotten benefits may be due you.
Tax and legal advice
Your estate planning should map out what passes to your wife and what goes to a trust with all tax consequences. You should identify who will be a suitable estate attorney for your affairs and suggestions on tax-related decisions. Most importantly is selected an appropriate trustee or executor to settle your affairs. Attorney Steve Leimberg has a good retirement guide on this and it should be available online.
Find and review all your policies - life, home, automobile - and give their contact information. Some of these may carry additional benefits in the event of your death.
Credit cards and other liabilities
List all your credit cards and debt obligations (mortgage, bank loans, etc.) with their outstanding balances. Give contacts and telephones. Some credit cards carry death benefits too. All credit cards will need to be cancelled so they don't continue to accumulate fees and interest charges.