Whenever a loved one passes away, the grief can be more than a person can bear. However, the grief coupled with the burden of settling their loved one’s estate can be overwhelming. Here are a few things you can do to make the estate settlement process easier for your heirs:
1) Make sure your will is updated. The will should name your executor and if you have children under 18, it should name a guardian. Also, if you have minor children, you may want to have a trust in place for your children and named trustees.
2) Check beneficiary designations. Most people choose beneficiaries when they open an account, start a new job, or first buy insurance. Decades later, life may have changed (divorce, births, deaths, etc.) and the old choices could be problematic.
3) Create a notebook with all the information your heirs will need. You should include a net worth statement, contact information of relevant parties such as your financial advisor, valuables list, last wishes, and a key documents reference list.
4) Deposit your original stock and bond certificates in a brokerage account. If stock and bond certificates are in safe deposit boxes or somewhere in the home, there is a chance that they will be overlooked during the estate settlement process. Also, the process to change each certificate into the heirs’ names is much more rigorous than changing the registration of a brokerage account.
5) Make sure there are enough liquid assets to settle the estate. Monthly bills will still need to be paid so there needs to be enough money available in money market or a checking account to fund two to three months of ordinary expenses.
6) Write an ethical will or family letter. Ethical wills can share values, family history, explain estate planning decisions, or express feelings toward family members.
7) Communicate with your family now. In order to make sure there are no surprises later, you should meet with everyone significantly involved with your estate. This would include executors, trustees, and primary heirs. One rule of thumb would be to meet once every five years to discuss your estate.
Doing these things can make the estate settlement process much easier on your heirs. We are always available to help in the estate settlement process and to help you make decisions about your own estate. Call us today to set up an appointment to analyze your estate plans.