Planning Tips for the Organizational Genius…And the Rest of Us

One of the most important things you can do to assist those you leave behind is to make sure all of your affairs are in order – and I’m not even talking about your legal documents.  While having all of your estate planning documents in order is an important component to providing an easy transition for your loved ones, there are five other matters that should be addressed to provide your loved ones with a peaceful, stress-free, harmonious probate process.

Funeral and Burial Instructions

Some clients discuss their wishes regarding their burials with me, but I am not the person who most needs to know because it is unlikely that I will be the one handling the funeral arrangements.   You should document your detailed wishes and let the people most likely to be handling your funeral know where to find the information.  This can be as simple as a letter or list provided to your family.  It may also include prepaid arrangements with the funeral home of your choosing.   Your family will thank you for it and it will also allow them to deal with their grief, not the details of your funeral.

List Your Closest Family Members, Friends and Employer or Business Associates

Prepare a list with names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your closest family members and friends.  You will also want to include contact information for your employer or business associates.  I recommend you complete this list and then review and update it annually.  This will allow your family to quickly and easily make the required notifications.  Otherwise your family will be left with the job of having to track down the contact information for those dozens of people who need notification. They may also miss an important notification because they are unaware of or unable to locate an important person.

Instructions to Your Executor / Successor Trustee

This one can be more challenging because you may not need to provide the same level of detail for all potential executors or trustees.  Your surviving spouse may not need any information or only some general guidelines or contact information but a child or third party will need to know who handles your legal, tax, and financial affairs.  They may also need to know any overriding principals you want applied for distribution of your estate or other assets.  They will need to know what assets you have and where they are held. I recommend you prepare for the person who may need the most information or assistance because it is easier for the person who doesn’t need it to skip past than for the person without the knowledge to locate it.

Organized Asset Information

You can have an outstanding set of estate planning documents customized for your family, but if your loved ones do not have detailed records of what you own and what you owe, you will leave them with a frustrating, never-ending headache that can delay distribution of your estate.  While it can be tedious to create and maintain a list of assets and liabilities, this list will better position your executor to wind up your estate quickly and less expensively.

Letter To Your Heirs and Other Family Members

A letter of this nature while difficult to write can be the difference between a contested and an uncontested probate.  The issues you need to address will be personal to the terms of your will and the relationship you have with each of your loved ones.  The issues commonly addressed include an explanation for who is selected or the order of selection for guardians for minor children or why the estate is divided in the manner outlined.  You may want to include explanations for who is named as the executor and guidelines for distributing personal property especially family heirlooms.  This is also a time to leave a final message to them.  For some one open letter to everyone is the right choice.  For others sealed personal letters to each loved one is the better choice.

Getting started on these five other matters will ease the burden on your loved ones when you pass away.

The following two tabs change content below.

Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

Latest posts by Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham (see all)