We’ve all heard the sad story of a beloved parent passing away, leaving the sorrowful family without a clue as to how to take care of the estate. Sometimes, when there are no directives, disposition must be decided by a court. It’s a sad enough time, but when left with the burden of "cleaning up" the deceased’s property and personal affairs, it’s really helpful to have things in order.
My husband Bruce and I tackled this job a few years ago. Our oldest daughter has been appointed the executrix of our estate. We have provided information for either the surviving partner or, in the event of our simultaneous deaths, the executrix to finalize the particulars of our estate.
You don’t have to have an attorney to prepare these papers, although depending upon your situation, it may be wise. There are good forms available for the various documents recommended. However, you should have the documents signed by two witnesses in the presence of a notary public. Following are documents you should consider:
– Individual wills - a legal document declaring a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of their property when he/she dies
– Durable Power of Attorney - documents appointing one another as Attorney-in-Fact, or an executor/executrix if neither survive
– Community Property Agreements
– Living Will - A Directive to Physicians regarding life-sustaining procedures you wish to have
– Directives regarding Funeral and Burial, or Disposition Authorization for Cremation
– Other directives such as whether or not you want to have viewing of bodies, scattering of ashes, traditional funeral or celebration of life, etc.
– Stipulate whether you are organ donors
If you keep important papers in a safe, make sure the executor knows the combination. If you keep things in a file drawer, make sure the executor knows exactly where to look. It’s good to have copies of these documents someplace other than in the home in case of fire or other disaster.
In addition to the documents listed above, another document with the following information will assist the executor or surviving partner in taking care of the many details that present themselves.
– Social Security Numbers, Birth Dates, Driver’s License Numbers
– Cars - makes, models, license numbers
– Insurance: life, cars, house, health. List policy numbers, agents to contact
– Financial/Investment information with name of bank or institution, account numbers and contact information. Include credit/debit card information. Indicate where statements from these institutions can be found so the executor knows how much money is involved.
It’s a good idea to go over all of this with your appointed executor/executrix ahead of time. Grief is tough enough without having to figure out complicated business issues.
It took us quite awhile to gather this information into one document. Imagine how difficult it would be for someone else to do it!