Founder and Author of the Side by Side Planner
An estate plan is meant to make life easier for the people you love. You make it for yourself – so you maintain control over your medical decisions and the way your assets are distributed, to protect the legacy you’ve built – but really, it’s about the people you love.
It’s about lightening the load for them. If something happened to you, like an accident or injury, your loved ones would already be under a great deal of stress. The last thing they want to worry about is bureaucracy and paperwork.
That‘s where an estate plan comes in. You have done the work ahead of time, so your loved ones can focus on what is important: taking care of you and each other.
If you’re truly invested in making life easier for your loved ones, estate planning doesn’t end at the door of an attorney’s office.
Here are three key lists that are easy to compile and update. You should keep these lists in any place you keep estate planning documents: in your safety deposit box, your freezer, and on the flash-drive copy you gave to your personal representative or your heirs.
List of important contacts: Make it easy for your loved ones to get in touch with anyone they might need during a crisis: your attorney, financial advisor, insurance provider, primary care physician, religious leader, and the leaders of any civic organizations or groups you belong to.
While the contact information for general offices is available online, you may have direct phone numbers or email addresses that would lighten the administrative burden for your loved ones.
List of prescriptions: If you were in an emergency situation and couldn’t speak for yourself, doctors would depend on your living will and healthcare power of attorney documents to make the best decisions for your care.
To ensure that healthcare providers have all the information they need to care for you, you want to provide them with an up-to-date list of any prescription medications you take. This will prevent them from prescribing drugs that interact with what you are already taking, and it gives them a more complete picture of any current medical issues.
This list is also useful for your healthcare decision-maker, who may need to fill your prescriptions for you while you recover.
List of digital accounts and passwords: Identity fraud can happen anytime, even after a death. These days, closing internet accounts to prevent fraud is part of closing an estate. It’s much easier for your personal representative to close these accounts if the person knows they exist and how to log into them.
In an emergency situation, your financial decision-maker – power of attorney – can also use this list to manage funds for your care while you recover from an illness or injury.
When you have completed these lists, keep a printed copy with your estate plan originals and keep a digital copy where it can be easily located. Make sure that the key people involved in your plan know exactly where to find the information when they need it.
And if your loved ones ever need these lists, they’ll be so glad you provided the information for them. You’ll have made a difficult time just a bit easier.
Next in this series, I’ll be offering two ways to ease your concerns about family tension with your estate plan. See “Estate Planning 3-2-1, Part 2: Two Ways to Ease Family Tension By Personalizing Your Estate Plan.”
Then, we’ll talk about the single most important task related to your estate plan, the one thing that you must do to make sure your plan is secure.