When we die, our loved ones will probably find themselves with a lot to manage—along with their grief. Most families find there are papers to be located, the probate process to navigate, decisions to be made, bills to wrangle, and, potentially assets to be tracked down and distributed. To minimize all this stress, experts encourage us to “tidy up” our estate plans every couple of years.
Sticky Notes and Good Intentions?
As unpleasant as the associated decisions and tasks may be, organizing our affairs during our lifetimes is a gift to loved ones. No one needs to be left playing detective while also grieving. As the affairs of the famous frequently demonstrate, good intentions—and sticky notes —will be of little use when we die. To keep your estate plan up to date, The Chicago Business Journal specifies these actions:
Locate and consolidate important information and account identification. One of the most difficult steps in estate administration is locating a decedent’s assets. To make this process easier for loved ones, compile a list of your accounts, property of significant value, liabilities and a contact person at each financial institution. Make the list easily accessible to your next of kin, and update it whenever opening or closing an account.
Review digital assets and online accounts. Digital assets, such as digital photographs/videos, social media accounts, music and digital currency, are often overlooked with respect to access and ownership post-death. Rather than sharing passwords or account access, consider adding a “digital assets clause” to your planning documents, which will allow named parties to access specific items within the bounds of currently accepted legal standards.
Write a letter of wishes. There is always room for confusion, feelings of disregard or potential conflict when it comes to executing the details of your legacy plan. Put pen to paper to fully express your intentions and hopes. This can be a difficult, time-consuming exercise, but can help open a dialogue that may have not otherwise taken place — and maybe one of the most valued things you leave to loved ones.
Keep in mind that while very helpful to families, a letter of wishes, sometimes also referred to as a letter of intention, is not a legal document. That’s why it is important to actually review your will and ensure it reflects current realities. Perhaps, for example, life events like births or deaths in the family have created changes you need to formalize. When reviewing your will, it is also key to check in with the executor you have chosen to administer your affairs. Executing a will is a big responsibility, so you’ll want to make sure your executor still has the time, ability and information needed to fulfill the duties in accordance with state probate law.
Ordinarily, the executor initiates the probate process by filing it—and the death certificate—in court. Many states now offer expedited probate processes so that absent conflict or complexity, the affairs of the deceased can be efficiently resolved. Courts do have the discretion to require a fiduciary bond, often referred to as an executor bond. An executor bond protects the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with state law. As a leading national provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety helps executors in every state quickly and affordably obtain their executor bonds. The steps to obtaining an executor bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere—even while at court.
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