Estate planning, if crafted properly, gives us the ability to control situations that are often out of our control. A comprehensive plan is much more than traditional documents such as a trust, will or power of attorney. The documents are the vehicle to get from point A to point B. We must then fill in the gaps to map out the route we want taken and give our decision makers the key to operate the vehicle.
Filling in the gaps involves creating a centralized source of information, such as file or binder, to guide those you place in charge on how to effectively do their job. There is no specific formula for creating this file, but the more information it includes, the more it helps those who will be managing your assets or making decisions on your behalf. Include information necessary for both estate administration and future care.
Estate administration, the process of managing and distributing an estate after death, is pretty straightforward from a legal perspective. From a practical prospective, however, it can be rather daunting. Loved ones are often left without any information about assets owned, location of assets, location of safety deposit box, beneficiaries on accounts or insurance policies, location of legal documents, online usernames and passwords, recurring bills, credit card information or insurance information. This information is necessary to effectively carry out your wishes.
Planning for future care and potential incapacity is just as important. A power of attorney gives someone else the authority to act on your behalf. It does not, however, give that person information as to what you own or how you would want your assets managed during periods of disability. Your decision makers need to know big picture information such as your wishes for living and care arrangements as well as details such as your key contacts, financial intentions and how you want your money to be spent.
A well-compiled roadmap is worth its weight in gold. Talk to your estate planning advisor about what information you should include beyond the documents.
Ashley Naramore, JD and LLM, is an attorney who practices estate planning and business succession in Western Arkansas, Garland County, Saline County, Hot Springs, and Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. She is available for consultations. Call to learn to more.