Stuck at home more than usual and getting a little bored? We have some ideas for your stay-at-home to-do list. The world, we hope, never shuts down like this again, so take advantage of time standing still and get your estate planning affairs in order. Assuming you have an estate plan, complete it and get organized so that, if/when the time comes, your loved ones know your wishes and can easily carry them out:
The Top Three
1) Review your plan. Take out your documents, read them, make sure you understand how they work. Check to ensure that the location of the originals is clearly noted; that your beneficiaries (including charities) and family members are correctly identified; and that signatures and initials (yours, witnesses’, and the notary’s) are in the proper places and can be read. Consider whether you want to make changes. (For instance, does your health-care directive say anything about ventilators or machines that provide breathing assistance? Do you still feel the same way now that ventilators are key to Covid-19 treatment?)
2) If you have a trust. Is it properly funded? Do you know? Review deeds, bank account titles, and beneficiary designations to ensure they are up to date.
3) If you don’t have at trust. Understand what your Will (or laws of intestacy) controls and what it doesn’t. Consider whether your estate may require a probate proceeding. Check bank and brokerage titles and beneficiary designations to ensure they are up to date.
No. 4 Is a Big One
4) Tangible personal property. If you have a Will or trust, consider filling out a personal property list. (We strongly recommend it!) First, find the provision in your document that allows you to designate giving personal items by list and follow its instructions; otherwise, it might not be enforceable. (Does it need to be signed, dated, in your own writing, etc.?)
If you already have a list, review it. If you don’t have a list or want to update it or do additional lists, this is a great item for your stay-at-home to-do list. Remember that these lists are for tangible personal property only. That means your stuff: jewelry, collectibles, art, clothing, furniture, family memorabilia, mementos, etc. Not bank accounts, not cash, not real estate.
Make sure all items and recipients are easily identifiable. (Can other people read your writing?!)
Consider supplementing with photographs of the items, appraisals, or your thoughts about how you acquired the items and whether you believe they have value. (Your story can transform something that has little value into a priceless memory of you.)
Done? Place it with your other documents so it will be found. Consider providing a copy to your estate planning attorney for your file.
5) Funeral/burial wishes. Have you made your wishes known? Purchased a plan? Make sure the paperwork can be found. Consider music, readings, jello recipes for the reception.
6) Contacts. Update lists: Who would you want contacted or who might need to be contacted in an emergency or at your death? Make a list and include phone numbers. Include family, friends, tax preparer, clergy, estate planning attorney, financial adviser, veterinarian, etc.
7) Touch base. Does your agent know he/she is named? Do they still want to do the job? Do they know what you really want? Make some calls.
8) Inventory 1. Take stock of your financial life. List all accounts; credit cards, insurance policies; income sources, including government benefits; and outstanding loans owed to or by you. List the institution, type of account, contact number, approximate balance/amount of income and frequency. If there’s online access, list username and password. Indicate whether you get statements by e-mail and whether any payments, coming in or going out, are auto-pay.
9) Inventory 2. Take stock of non-financial digital life. List accounts, usernames and passwords. Consider whether the platform has a policy regarding your accounts/assets at death and decide whether to act on it.
10) Clean out. You do NOT need to retain all bank statements, pay stubs, utility bills, etc. for your entire lifetime. Do your loved ones a favor: Purge and shred. Here’s a guide to what to keep and how long.
A Few More
Don’t forget the little things, like the location of spare keys and security codes; pet and plant and pool care instructions; and little quirks like the fact that you keep extra cash in a secret soup-can safe.
Once you finish with these ideas for your stay-at-home to-do list, maybe the stay-at-home order will have lifted and we’ll all be back to normal to-dos: Target, the farmer’s market, the bank, the beauty shop. Those were the days.