Will You Leave A Gift—Or A Mess?

Do you consider yourself an organized person? It seems that when it comes to organization some people have the gift for it and some people simply don’t. If you’ve ever had (or have currently) the overwhelming job of sorting through the estate of a deceased loved one, you know how very grateful you can be if that loved one had that gift for organization. If, on the other hand, you find yourself sorting bewilderedly through the estate of a less organized loved one, do not despair—Suzanne Barlyn of the Wall Street Journal has some advice to help you through “The Mess They Left.

The truth of the matter is that you can be a wonderfully organized person in life and still inadvertently leave a mess for your heirs simply because you don’t know what will be important after you’re gone. Here a few tips that will make a world of difference to person in charge of your estate:

  • Keep all of your estate planning documents (will, trust, powers of attorney, etc) together in one place, and make sure your executor knows the location.
  • Keep updated lists of assets with your estate planning documents—including life insurance policies, retirement and investment accounts, bank accounts, property, etc.
  • Make it as easy as possible for an trustee/executor to find any remaining debt you may have. File your bills in a tidy and logical location.
  • Make a list of personal property and your wishes for it; this may be the hardest thing for you, but it will prevent emotion-driven bickering among your heirs. You would be surprised at what kinds of trinkets people will fight over.
  • Make a list of your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor, and insurance agents. Don’t be secretive about your advisors. The people who advised you in life can be of invaluable service to your trustee/executor after you’ve passed away. They can also serve as a guide to loved ones who are still confused and in shock.

Whatever your natural tendencies may be, a little organization can be one of the greatest gifts you leave behind for your heirs. A few hours you spend now getting your paperwork in order can save your trustee/executor weeks—or even months—after you’re gone.