Do your kids know where your will is?
It is a scene that Florida attorneys see played out too many times in their local offices. Parents often leave their adult children without any idea about their final wishes, even neglecting to tell them where to find their estate planning documents. The implications of that failure are staggering, as relatives can be subjected to serious stress because of failed communication. In one case, an attorney tells the story of a man who failed to adequately plan, leaving his sister as the sole executor of his estate without any direction. The man died at age 60; after his passing, his sister was forced to spend months digging to account for all of the man’s assets. She only found out about one mutual fund in Florida 5 years after the man’s death.
The first step in preparing for estate planning is to simply talk to your adult children. Parents and their children both worry about the inevitable, but estate execution will go much smoother if heirs are kept apprised of existing estate plans. Continue to talk about the estate plan as you make changes – entering retirement can cause older people to revisit their estate plans, for example.
Be sure to stay organized, and ensure that every document and item has its place in your estate plan. Keeping a combination of paper and electronic records – with backups for both – will help you heirs organize key documents after you pass. Information about health, financial and legal documents should all be easily available. In addition, all key documents should be kept in a safe location that is known to your children. Keep multiple copies of your will and other estate plans in a safe-deposit box or even a safe at home, so your children can consult them quickly in an emergency.
Estate plans do not have to be complicated, but they do need to be kept in an agreed-upon location. Communicating with your beneficiaries about the contents and location of your will can improve the speed and accuracy with which your estate plan can be executed.