When working with the family of the recently deceased, the most common complaint we hear is that they are overwhelmed by paperwork after the decedent’s death. We recommend that you consider spending some time getting your “legal affairs” in order. This will make life easier in the long run for your heirs.
Our specific recommendation is that you write a letter to your potential Personal Representative (what Florida calls your Executor) explaining to your Personal Representative all aspects of your affairs and providing to your Personal Representative all of the information which you think he or she needs to know. In many cases, you are the only one with the “big picture”, and are best prepared to organize the information which your Personal Representative will need at your death. This will greatly simplify and streamline the transfer of your assets.
We suggest that you keep the originals of your important papers in a safe deposit box. This should include your original Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, Medical Surrogate Appointment, stock certificates, bonds, insurance policies, marriage and death certificates, and other similar papers, and almost as important in this internet age, of a list of websites you frequently access with updated passwords. Copies of those papers should be in separate files in a file cabinet which has a key and which is located in your home. The information which will be extremely helpful to your future personal representative includes the following:
1. Safe Deposit Box location and key.
2. A copy of your current Last Will and Testament and the location of the original.
3. Original Living Will with another original to be held in your safe deposit box.
4. Burial instructions and arrangements made, including prepayments and rights to which you are due.
5. A copy of any Trust Agreements which you have established or for which you are the beneficiary. The originals should be in your safe deposit box.
6. Social Security records for you and your spouse.
7. Copy of your Marriage Certificate with the original being held in your safe deposit box.
8. Copy of Pre-Nuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreements with location of originals noted.
9. Divorce/Separation Agreement.
10. Passports for you and your spouse.
11. Real Estate Information. For each property owned by address:
(a) Copy of most recent tax bill for each parcel owned.
(b) Where your file is containing your Deed, Title Insurance Policy, Mortgage information, and other information regarding the property.
(c) Copy of your Mortgage Payment Coupon indicating the name, address and telephone number of the Lender and the Mortgage Loan Number.
12. Automobile Title or Lease Agreement, and Boat Title, and location of each.
13. List of all credit cards held including names of creditors, addresses, telephone numbers and account numbers. A copy of a statement regarding each credit card held would be helpful.
14. Banking information, including name and location of each bank in which you have an account, and account numbers.
15. Recent Brokerage and Mutual Fund Statements – copy of one statement for each account.
16. Retirement Asset Statements, IRA, Keogh, Company Pension Plan Asset Statements.
17. Partnership Agreements, Leases or other contracts to which you are bound.
18. Copies of last year’s Federal and State Income Tax Returns.
19. Notes Receivable, Notes Payable and other loan agreements.
20. Life Insurance Policies (with master list of each policy).
21. List of the name, address and telephone number of your lawyer, accountant, financial planner, stockbroker, insurance agent, including fax numbers of those individuals.
Putting all this information together may seem like a lot of trouble to you, but at least you know where everything is. Think of how much trouble it will be for someone who follows you who has no idea where these things are or even if they exist. By so doing, you will enable your Personal Representative and family members to carry out your wishes quickly, efficiently and with as little burden as possible.
Please call our office for an appointment to discuss and have prepared the documents you will need during your life (Powers of appointment, Medical Surrogate appointments, etc.) and after (Last Will and Testament, Revocable Trusts) to make handling your affairs straight forward and as uncomplicated as possible.
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