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Lists For The Living

Being involved in an Estate Planning business makes you more aware of the number of activities and tasks that most people forget to do before they depart this planet.

The turmoil left behind could be easily avoided by making a few lists for those loved ones who are left behind to deal with your departure.

Take a few minutes to read our lists below, then consider your loved ones and the amount of work you want to leave behind for them, OR NOT!

A few hours of YOUR TIME NOW could save hundreds of theirs later on.

AND don’t leave it for later, before it’s too late. As we all know too well…Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

So, you have nominated your Executor(s) in your Will. But have you provided them with everything they need to know to perform their duties?

A good letter of instruction, with any of the following information, will make it easier for your Executor(s) and could save them hundreds of hours. Even if it’s just a few of these below:

  1. Your funeral intentions and (if you are the detailed type like myself) your obituary I’m currently working on my video obituary with messages for my loved ones, along with the photos I’ve chosen for the service and songs I want to be played. If you have grandkids, ask them to record it for you and have them ask questions about your life. It will make good viewing and perhaps a few laughs at the service.
    And if you are not old enough to have grandkids yet, like me, that does not let you off the hook. Grab your smartphone and get recording. 
  2. A complete list of all assets (tangible and non-tangible) Not only do you need to list all your assets, but you should also identify their whereabouts of them. Remember to include the tangible assets that are not readily accessible (investment property/holiday homes), or liquid assets such as shares and superannuation. Include names and contact information for any bankers, brokers, accountants, attorneys, or other professionals who handle your assets and investments. 
  3. Document the location of all legal and financial documents
    Make it easy for those doing the work. Your executor will need to have details for your bank accounts and superannuation statements, tax returns, birth and marriage certificates, divorce and citizenship papers, titles and/or deeds for any real estate properties, Wills, and trusts. Remember your executor usually has to file a tax return on your behalf so leave the necessary details for smoother transactions. 
  4. Insurance
    This is important. Leave contact details and information for any and all insurance policies, especially life insurance. 
  5. Your gift list.
    Create a list of the personal items you would like to pass on to different people. This could also include sentimental possessions or heirloom items. Explain how you would like these items distributed or disposed of. This will save a significant amount of time and effort for all involved. I’m sure you have heard stories of families going around with post-it notes tagging items for themselves! And arguments about who should get your 1998 Dubai 7’s winner’s trophy? 
  6. Instructions for any renovations or work required on your residence prior to it being sold. Make sure you provide details of all utility companies to cancel any direct debits. 
  7. Feeling generous?
    List your preferred charities for donations and the amount you would like to donate. Be clear with your instructions. Will your donation be the first distribution or at the end and after what’s left? Let the charity know you have left something behind for them.
  8. And who keeps the dog?
    Be sure to leave instructions for the care and placement of any pets.
  9. PINs and PASSWORDS!
    Again. Don’t make it impossible for those who are left. Document for all your devices, apps and logins that require security. Then leave it with your Will or in a safe and secure place where your Executor knows its whereabouts. This can save your executor and beneficiaries hundreds of hours when it counts.
  10. Your digital footprint and assets.
    What do you want to be done with your Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram accounts? Someone will either need to request their removal or keep it active as an ongoing living memory of your past. The details of all accounts and logins should be on the above list and what you want to be done with them as well.
  11. Most importantly – What about the kids?
    If you have any children under 18, you should document clear instructions for their Guardian(s). They will want to know and understand your intentions for their living arrangements, how this is going to be funded, and the day to day decisions you want to be made for their future. There is going to be enough grief when you have gone, especially when leaving behind young children. Don’t be that person who left nothing in place for them.

Unlike your Will, these lists and instructions have no legal authority. 

However, it can explain your overall estate plan to your executor and lay out your wishes to your family for things not covered by the Will.

The most common way to document the above is by a letter, typed or handwritten, physical or a PDF.

These can also be done with a video or an audio recording. Remember to mention the date and time of the recording so they can attest to the most recent version.

Instructions can be used for many different reasons. 
The main use is simply to lead your executor in settling your estate through a recommended process, step by step, using plain language, that isn’t Lawyer-ish.

The Bottom Line
Instructions provide a helpful guide for those who will have to settle your affairs once you are gone. 

As with any other Estate Planning document, these lists and instructions should be reviewed and possibly updated at least every 5 years, and more often if you have young children. 

Keep all in a safe place (both digitally and physically), known by your executor(s), beneficiaries and substitute executors.

LGen Estate Planning has a simple tool for creating these types of instructions. Reach out if you would like help getting yours started.

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