Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Why Estate Planning is Important

We often ask; what would happen to everything you own if you were to pass away tomorrow? Does any of your family members or loved ones know where to access your important documents or passwords? Would they know what to do with the information once they got a hold of it? As part of our financial planning process, we review all our new client’s estate plans and help get them organized, this includes creating a Legacy binder. This article will lay out the basics of an estate plan and describe our solution to make it simpler for you to pass your assets on after you pass away.   

Most Americans say having an estate plan/will is important, but only 40% have one in place. If this is the case when you die your loved ones will have little to no say over how your belongings are managed. That is why we feel it is important for you to create the necessary estate planning documents and communicate your wishes to your heirs. Here is a list of documents that should be included in your estate plan: 

  • Living Will 
  • Power of attorney 
  • Durable power of attorney for medical/healthcare (advanced directive) 
  • HIPAA release 
  • Last will and testament  
  • Trust  
  • *We will not go into details for each of these documents, but we recommend you speak with an estate planning attorney.

Once the estate planning documents have been created, we put them in one central location we call the Legacy Binder. This binder can be stored in a safe at your home, a safety deposit box at a bank, or simply in a safe place you have chosen. We then recommend you tell at least three loved ones how access to this binder.  

What is a Legacy Binder? 

It is a physical binder, not just a folder on your computer, that has all the information your family needs if something happens to you. Unfortunately, a will or estate plan won’t be helpful if no one knows where it is or how to access it. While this part of planning for the future is not as fun as planning for a big trip, its impacts can’t be understated. Having your Legacy Binder in place eliminates added stress and confusion during a time of grieving. 

How to Set Up Your Legacy Binder? 

  • Binder  
  • Tabs 
  • Sleeves to hold documents 
  • Flash drive (optional)  
  • A safe, safety deposit box, or fire-proof folder. 

What’s inside Your Legacy Binder? 

It should contain everything your spouse or family needs to know if you aren’t around. That means anything to do with your financial life, passwords, your medical wishes, and plans for your funeral. We will break down what documents to include and how to organize them so your loved ones can find what they need quickly. We have included the spreadsheet we use, and the checklists mentioned as well. 

Cover Letter 

  • This is a letter stating the purpose and contents of the Legacy Binder. This is meant to introduce your loved ones or heirs to the contents of the binder and what actions need to be taken. 

Estate Planning Inventory  

Professional Contacts 

  • Financial advisors, accounts, attorneys, and insurance agents. These are important people to contact when major events take place and action needs to be taken. 

Asset Inventory 

  •  All your financial account information, insurance policies, employee benefits, income sources, and any liabilities you may owe. 

Documents and Estate Planning 

  • This includes all your estate planning documents and other important documents such as tax returns and personal forms of identification 

Usernames and Passwords 

  • A list of usernames, passwords to key accounts and devices so that their loved ones can access any needed documents, money, or information. 

Home Information 

  • This includes important bills the household pays, any subscriptions, and any other relevant information someone will need to know. 

Funeral Instructions  

  • All the details surrounding your funeral should be included in your legacy binder so your loved ones can fulfill your wishes. Are there important details you want to be included? What would you like people to give in your honor? Where do you want your funeral to take place? What do you want the mood to be at your funeral? 
  •  If you’re married, create a set of instructions for you and another set for your spouse. 

Executor Checklist 

  • This is a list of action items for the person responsible for handling matters regarding their estate to make sure they don’t miss anything and know what to prioritize. 

If you decide to keep your binder in a safety deposit box or safe, create an envelope that includes instructions on where your binder is and who has access to it. If you want a boost to your peace of mind, invest in a fireproof envelope where you can put this envelope. Once all your files have been set up, don’t forget to tell your spouse and trusted contacts about it. This is also a great time to share the specifics they might not be aware of or things that have changed over the years.

Creating your Legacy Binder might seem like a lot to do at first, but once you get going you can knock it out in a month or so. Make sure you revisit your legacy drawer every 12 to 24 months or when a major life change takes place. Check to see if any documents need to be added or amended if you need to make copies of new or changed information, or update login information. 

With your Legacy Binder in place, not only are you protecting your family but you’re also giving them the gift of peace of mind. 

Steps to take today for your Estate Plan 

  • 1. Review and update all your beneficiaries on all financial and insurance accounts. 
  • 2. Gather and review all estate planning documents you currently have.  
  • 3. Purchase the supplies needed to assemble the binder. 

An important note: this estate planning article highlights many legal elements and is not meant to offer advice. It is important to talk with a lawyer when it comes to planning out your estate documents this article was meant to give a high-level view of what a complete estate plan should consist of. 

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