As an estate planning attorney, I frequently get asked what information about their estate plan my clients should share with their loved ones. Your loved ones, whether they be children, parents, siblings, or friends, do not need to know specifics about your estate plan. However, there are still things they should be told before you become incapacitated or die.
It is critically important that your loved ones know you have created an estate plan, as well as where to find your original estate planning documents. This will save time and money in the event of your incapacity and/or death. I also recommend that clients tell their families who their attorney is so that if questions arise the family has a resource that is familiar with the plan itself.
A list of financial institutions (as well as brief information about the account, such as the type of account and account number) should also be compiled. With many individuals choosing to have paperless financial accounts, it can be very difficult to find all the assets of an individual who is incapacitated or has passed away. Sharing the contents of this list is not as important as sharing the fact that the list exists and where to find it. Remember that this is not a static document. You need to continuously review this list and update it as you change your investments and advisors. For my clients at Morris Hall, a copy of this list should be kept behind the “Trust Property” tab in the Estate Planning Portfolio.
I also recommend that my clients have a conversation with their loved ones regarding health care and end of life decisions. Prior to executing documents naming individuals as health care agents, you should ask those being appointed if they are willing to take on this responsibility. Not everyone is willing to make decisions for another individual, especially when those decisions include end of life decisions. It is important that the health care agents you name in your executed documents are willing and able to serve. It is also important they know what your beliefs are about end of life decisions. You should also talk to other family members who are not asked to serve in this capacity. These family members should know who is going to make your decisions as well as what those decisions are. This will help keep harmony among your love ones.
Contributed by MH attorney and partner Katherine A. O'Connell
About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.