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Thread: Organizing records for your executor

  1. #1
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Organizing records for your executor

    Several of you have recently closed out your parents’ estates.

    Tell me how you would have liked to see the important information organized and accessible to you.


    My father-in-law died last week so DH and his siblings will be going through some of this but I think that is pretty well in hand since it is all in a trust and the other sibling has been handling his finances for a while now.

    My purpose in asking this question is that I want to organize my own household financial records in one place for our executor.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    We are currently getting our trust drawn up so I'm not sure how it will look when completed but my dad's was huge (according to current attorney, unnecessarily so) and in a three ring binder. There were only a couple of times (real estate transactions) where I needed to show sections of the trust for clarification. I think that was mostly because although my dad was still alive he had dementia and I was making the decisions and signing documents. POA was used the most AND since my mom had passed but had been a "Trust maker" I needed copies of her death certificate anytime I was selling anything her name was on such as vehicles and real estate.
    I kept another binder with all financial information and updated each month with the new monthly statement for each. It also contained my dad's military discharge papers and life insurance companies. I did make a mistake in not double checking beneficiaries while he was still alive. One of them actually had his mom as beneficiary from back in the early 50's. He never changed it when he got married to my mom. In all cases I needed a death certificate for the beneficiary that had passed before I could have the benefits paid to his heirs. Made the process a bit longer.
    The binders are in our office/bedroom on a shelf above the desk. Both our kids who are going to be trustees know where it is. One kid works in the death industry so he knows the ropes on a lot of who to call, when to call, what they need and how they need it. He was also there for a lot of what went down with my folks so he knows how we are doing our best to plug those holes. We also have all of our accounts and passwords in a hidden file in the computer and he knows how to get to that if need be.
    I would also say that it is never a one and done scenario. I would revisit paperwork yearly, make sure to update what needs to be updated and let your executor know of any changes. We also have a list of personal items that we want to go to certain people should we still have them at the time of our demise. We have also talked to the people prior to make sure that it is something they want (as with our folks.... not all "gifts" are wanted and can be a burden) and they know our intentions and it is written down and discussed with the trustees.
    If you want an obit... write down the particulars for the person who will write it because it is often difficult to remember particulars when you are grieving.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    Personally my sister and I were just glad that dad was organized. He had shared with us both lists of his various accounts and such roughly once every six or seven years. Once he was in the hospital for what looked like it would be the final time my sister was able to get several of the accounts into joint tenancy with right of survivorship of dad and her so that they didn't have to go through probate.

  4. #4
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    My husband has our accounts and balances on a spreadsheet. We don't have the rest of our financial affairs in any kind of order for others to just jump in - but at least all the paper records are in one room (insurance coverage etc).

  5. #5
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    We dont have life insurance, but if we did, I would list that on our document.

    My father in law had life insurance which surprises me, but anyway, DH says life insurance payout isnt taxable. I didnt know that about life insurance.

    I have learned two reasons to have life insurance now as a way to pass on some money to children:
    1) Payout is not subject to Medicaid clawback for nursing home costs
    2) Payout is not taxable to those who get the payout

    For a long time I thought life insurance was a stupid waste of money for adults who can support themselves, but now I see some utility for people of modest means who truly want to leave a bit of money to their children.
    Last edited by iris lilies; 1-2-19 at 2:51pm.

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    DH and I consolidated all our financial affairs so upon his death, transfer was simple. We have used the same legal office for decades so all transactions and wills etc are in one place. We made a point of using an accounting office to establish a history and I continue to do so. Our children are both heirs, have a list of accounts and sources for any info. I will continue to keep my records simple and straight forward.
    Last edited by razz; 1-2-19 at 3:20pm.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

  7. #7
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    Well, things *not* to do:

    - Don't have half a dozen safe deposit boxes strewn around town. If you do, have keys for them all in a sensible place. Ideally with a list of the contents. We tracked down one box that had been moved to several different physical locations as bank branches were closed, or banks merged, and finally found the key for it and opened it in a scene nearly identical to Geraldo Rivera opening up Al Capone's vault...

    - Don't have physical stock certificates and bonds stuffed between the pages of random books in your library "because you don't trust stockbrokers". And if they are Czarist War Bonds that you bought from the Czar himself, frame those suckers, don't stash them hoping for the return of Empire...

    -Also, don't do the stash-in-books thing with cash either.

    - Make a nice list of all annuities, pensions, life insurance policies, various death benefits, and so on. Don't let your executor discover this stuff when phone calls or checks start rolling in.

    - Make sure there's enough liquidity in the estate so the executor can easily handle routine and expected expenses.

    - If you have artwork of significance, it is helpful to have recent appraisals, and some indication to the executor of where the market is for such things if you intend for it to be sold. Your executor is unlikely to be the world's top expert in the Stick-and-String Navigational Art of Micronesia, and may mistake it for kindling.

    - Seriously, clean out your garage and attic before you die. Just do it.

    - If there's Special Stuff that you want to go to a relative or friend, write it down, or it's not happening. I simply don't care who gets Aunt Nellie's Special Left Handed Gravy Spoon that she complimented you on 37 Thanksgivings Ago.

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    In our family we call it the “death book”. Wills, POAs, account numbers, insurance policies, pension stuff, etc. Don’t forget passwords! Also final wishes and a pre-written obituary. As Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.”

    My hope is to save my survivors a lot of trouble and get the last word.

  9. #9
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Dave Ramsey has the Legacy Drawer, which is pretty all encompassing:

    https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/lega...mily-prepared/

    I have an envelope in one of my aunt's desk's pigeonholes, which was very awkwardly named: ITEOMD (In The Event Of My Death). My lawyer son suggested I change the name because they could look for hours for help on information on stuff, and never figure that one out. So I spelled it out and added "or in the event I can no longer make decisions for myself"

    I have a will that I have never had formally executed, but I video'd myself stating that the documents presented there represent my final wishes. I do have to get around to getting DH and I to a lawyer or at least an online will and a notary.

    I also have a printed out excel spreadsheet with the names of all of my accounts, credit cards, investments etc., with the log-on/passwords/usernames etc. I try to keep up with passwords, but it's not easy. I also included a few "suggestions" of music I'd like played at any ceremony they decide to go with. I also included a "goodbye" poem written by Thich Nhat Hanh.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

  10. #10
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    A related suggestion: if you’re the executor of someone’s estate, keep the estate records for a number of years afterwards. Why?

    My brother died in 1994 and I was the administrator of his estate. He hadn’t filed federal or state income tax returns for several years before he died, but I had an excellent estate attorney who prepared those returns using the documentation we were able to find, all returns were filed, all taxes and penalties were paid, the IRS and the state were happy. I put all of the estate records in a small file box and stuck in the attic. I thought about getting rid of it a few times but it wasn't in the way, so I just left it there.

    Then, in 2008 (14 years later!), I got a notice from some collection agency claiming that they had bought delinquent tax accounts and that the state tax had not been paid for one of the years involved (1992, I think). Of course, they wanted a lot more money than was originally owed. I still had the small file box of estate records in the attic and was able to provide proof that everything was paid up in 1995. I never heard from them again, and that box is still in the attic, just in case.

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