Getting The Details Right

The gathering of complete and accurate information is essential to the proper drafting of wills and other estate documentation.

Accurate and complete documentation minimizes the possibility of disputes. After you are gone, your estate documentation will speak for you. If they are incomplete or inaccurate, your wishes could be misinterpreted and wrongly applied. Taking the time now to organize your personal and financial documents will save you headaches in the future.

Here are 11 Important Documents and Concepts you should have knowledge of to avoid future disputes :

1) COMPLETE NAMES

Make sure your attorney has the complete names for you, your spouse and all of your beneficiaries. For example: John T. (Thomas) Macy; Mary L. (Lilly) McLeod.
Make sure you also inform your attorney of any nicknames for both you and your beneficiaries. Example: Charles McLeod (also known as Putney McLeod).

2) BENEFICIARIES OF CHARITABLE GIFTS

If you plan to make a gift to a charitable organization, please confirm they’re correct name and address. For the sake of accuracy, contact the organization for confirmation.

3) SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS

While Social Security numbers are very personal to most people, it is important that you obtain them for you and your beneficiaries. In addition to being a further means of identification, a Social Security Number can be used to locate a missing estate beneficiary.

If the IRS requires your estate to file tax returns, they may require that you submit the Social Security numbers for you and your beneficiaries.

4) BIRTH DATES

If your estate is required to file tax returns, the IRS may require your age as well as the age of your beneficiaries. Your attorney may also need birth dates for you, your spouse, and all estate beneficiaries to complete some of your estate documents.

5) REAL ESTATE DEEDS

Your attorney needs to confirm how you own your real estate to determine how it will pass in your will. Obtain photocopies of the deeds to all of your real estate. Make sure the deeds include any recording data stamped by the deed office.

6) BANK STATEMENTS

Like real estate, your attorney will need to confirm how you own your bank accounts to determine if and how it will pass in your will.

7) STOCKS AND BONDS

If you own stocks or bonds, your attorney will need copies. As with your real estate and bank accounts, your attorney will need to determine if these assets need to be included in your estate.

8) LIFE INSURANCE POLICY

If you have life insurance, make copies of the policies insuring you, your spouse and children. Your attorney will need the complete name of the insurer, the policy number, the date of issue, the type of policy, as well as the owner and beneficiary of each policy.

While the first page of the policy may contain much of the information your attorney needs, you will need to photocopy the entire policy.

Some employers provide life insurance to their employees. Contact your human resources department to see if your employer provides insurance. You may also have life insurance coverage under a credit card or as a member of an automobile club or as part of a group medical insurance policy.

9) RETIREMENT PLAN

Be sure to provide complete information with regard to any IRA accounts or retirement plans that may be provided by your current or past employers.

10) EMPLOYER BENEFITS

I mentioned life insurance as a possible employer benefit earlier in this article. Your Employer may offer other benefits that could form part of your estate. If your employer has an employee handbook, please provide a copy to your attorney.

11) CITIZENSHIP

Federal estate tax law limits the availability of a marital deduction for transfers to a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen by requiring the transfers to be in special trusts. Be certain to provide information about the citizenship of your spouse.

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