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This topic contains 34 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  chacha1 6 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #159790

    chacha1
    Member

    Over the past two years I significantly decluttered my financial life. Now I am finally, after telling myself for years that I would do this, starting the estate planning process.

    For years I didn’t have any assets and told myself that was a good enough reason to not take charge of end-of-life decisions. I am now at the point where I do have some assets (positive net worth FTW!), but a greater motivation than that has been watching the decline of my now almost 95-yr-old grandmother. I am almost exactly half her age.

    She took care of estate planning a long time ago and it’s a good thing she did, because she is not capable any longer. Her latest episode (a fall, a chronic infection, and an aneurysm) has me scared straight.

    I don’t want to live to 95, especially if mostly blind, crippled, and unable to remember what I’ve done from one day to the next; but however long I live I’m going to need an end-of-life plan. So, no more excuses.

    I have started by making the recommended list of accounts, which will all need to be closed out in some kind of organized manner so that my executor(s) can gather my end-of-life business into a manageable ball. I have identified TWENTY-SEVEN separate online accounts! – almost all related to legitimate business.

    I think I will find that making an end-of-life plan will have the ancillary benefit of helping me further declutter and organize my records.

    Has anyone else started this process? If you did, how did you start? What did you find was the biggest hurdle to starting, or the most complicated task you discovered along the way?

    Alternatively, what has dealing with a loved one’s demise taught you about financial decluttering specifically?

  • #207923

    bandicoot
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    i was the executor for my husband’s aunt’s will, a while back.
    her affairs were extremely simple (one house, one tenant, one car, one credit card, one savings acount, one funeral savings plan), her will was extremely simple (beneficiaries: brother and sister plus a few small bequests) and it was still a complicated six month ordeal involving multiple faxes, phone calls, registered mailings.
    i don’t think you can over-simplify it!

    my greatest fear is suddenly dropping dead. (that is kinda funny actually!)
    i highly doubt that my husband would keep our company going on his own.
    if he died, i’d be unable to work it on my own either. i would need staff.
    in the last few weeks, i have been considering life insurance for us both.
    it would certainly make things simpler and easier.
    it is one thing to lose a spouse…..it is another to lose your source of income on top of that.
    organising this now is a courtesy to each other.

  • #207924

    Mimi
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    chacha, i found the “big book of everything” very helpful: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2009/07/21/free-life-affairs-organizer/
    i am still working to fill out all the pages, even though i deleted a lot because i donยดt need or want to fill them.

  • #207925

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    I have small term-life policies for myself and DH. The benefit amount is just enough to pay rent & utilities & food & insurance for a full year … idea being, it will take pretty much a year to sort everything out and probably the survivor wouldn’t be working full time (i.e. earning full pay) the full year. It’s just a peace-of-mind thing, not a windfall.

  • #207926

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    @Mimi, I downloaded that organizer but after reviewing it I too thought it had a lot I don’t need. I uncluttered it!

  • #207929

    Ella
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    My mother appointed my older sister and my step-father as trustees/executors of her estate. When my mother died, my sister refused to acknowledge her death or to communicate with anyone in the family. My step-father flew into a purple rage at the family lawyer’s office while the lawyer was explaining his executor duties, even though my step-father had signed the original document with my mother just a few years earlier.

    Three years passed and neither my sister nor my step-father did anything whatsoever to carry out my mother’s wishes. My inquiries with the family lawyer came to naught, as he told me that execution of my mother’s trust was entirely up to the executors. Finally I engaged an estate lawyer to intervene, to force them to resign their duties, and to act as executor. My sister and my step-father willingly signed the agreement. I think they were relieved. It cost me $6,000 but my mother’s wishes were finally carried out in full.

    The moral of the story is: you can never be absolutely sure that your chosen executors will follow your wishes.

  • #207930

    pkilmain
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    We are in the process – slowly – of finding a new executor (secondary, to be used if we both die) since ours was my BIL who died last spring. Our preference is someone close by as it will involve dealing with the house and furnishings, cars, etc. All of our relatives live over 3,000 miles away! While we are there next month, however, we will talk with my BIL’s oldest daughter, the one we are closest to, about she and her husband assuming this duty.

    My mother and stepfather had very simple estates, and they were finished quickly with no fuss. My in-laws were a bit more complicated, and we have just this year, 4 years after my FIL’s death, finished dealing with DH’s part.

  • #207935

    baby steps to estate planning

    I’ve been working on this since the beginning of the year — slowly but surely. My goal for the first quarter, Jan-Mar, has been to assemble all of our vital household records (deeds, titles, identity cards, etc) into one place and to make a spreadsheet of all of our assets and liabilities. I’m getting there, but not working very steadily at it and it will probably take another month.

    The next step will be a current will. The ones we have are very basic and I think we both need something more nuanced. That will be the project for the next quarter.

    I’ve only been on the periphery of the estate business, but speaking to friends who have done it it CAN be cumbersome, even if everything is organized and in up-to-date.

    Good a timely topic!

  • #207936

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    My preference for an executor would be my sister, but odds are good that she will predecease me. ๐Ÿ™ My other options are a longtime friend who is an accountant and lives in-state, and a much younger friend who is cohabiting with an accountant and lives across town. In either case I will need to have some readily accessible cash for the executor(s) as one of the immediate needs will be to deal with whatever pets I have at the time! Not sure how best to set that up.

  • #207937

    ninakk
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    I think this is timely for anyone who has a bit more complicated a life; mortgage, loan, many obligations in various areas, etc. My sh*t-hit-the-fan folder is still halfway done since it takes surprisingly long to add anything of importance.

  • #207940

    Zora
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    My only asset of any value is my condo. It’s in Honolulu, where prices are STILL high, so it is worth something.

    I have a will, executors, statement of wishes re medical treatment, etc., plus have kept my daughter up-to-date on what I want done with my STUFF. However, she’s thousands of miles away, in New York, in school, and my current executors live on another island. Also, no provision is made for my cats.

    I am planning to rewrite my will to split the proceeds from the sale of the condo between my daughter and my Zen group (sangha). The sangha will be charged with executing the will, preparing the condo for sale, and finding homes for my cats. They would be able to advance any money necessary for this and deduct that from the estate when the condo is sold.

    That would give me peace of mind.

  • #207964

    bandicoot
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    we are both leaving monies to the rspca and part of the deal there is that they re-home our cats, together.

  • #207973

    herisff
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    In my family, those responsible for executor duties have copies of relevant documents, plus information on where things are and how to enter properties.

    If your family is scattered across the country, DropBox or similar services is a great way to keep documents updated, so that the right people can have the newest documents. I just updated my list of accounts and work info (so family can notify work, if need be), and DropBox took care of updating my executor’s info. Plus I also have an ICE folder (In Case of Emergency) that has a scanned copy of my will, power of attorneys, and access codes to all websites etc (so they can be shut down or closed). Still need to deal with what to do with my dogs, however, since I’m the one who lives the farthest away from the others.

  • #207977

    nws2002
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    Not sure if this falls 100% into estate planning, but it does involve what happens near the end of your life.

    I think it is important to create a living will or advance health care directive. Many times the forms are available on your state’s website (in the US at least). You also need to communicate your wishes to your family and your physician.

  • #207978

    pkilmain
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    In much of the US hospitals require the advaned directives whenever anyone is admitted.

  • #207980

    baby steps to estate planning

    Also consider who you would give power of attorney to in the event of incapacity. My parents have developed Parkinsons and Alzheimers. My sister is having the hardest time getting their online accounts to recognize her power of attorney. Our parents did not consolidate their accounts, the money is spread over dozens of little investments here and there.

    My sister and I are determined not to leave cluttered homes or finances to our own children.

  • #207982

    baby steps to estate planning

    Thanks for starting this topic ๐Ÿ™‚

  • #209288

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    So, my grandma has been pretty much non compos mentis for the past couple of weeks. Through correspondence with my aunt & mom I’ve deduced that while there is a will, a regular Power of Attorney, and expression of end of life wishes (specifically no funeral, cremation, and dump the ashes at Site A), there does NOT appear to be a healthcare POA, an advance directive, a living will, or any of that.

    And my mom is lamenting that none of this is in place (since the only alternative is to keep inserting feeding tubes & IV antibiotics) while at the same time SHE AND DAD have none of it. Argh!

    So I guess it is up to me to get all my sh*t in order and send them a copy and say “do yours now as well, please and thank you.” That is my To-Do for May.

  • #209290

    bandicoot
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    chacha, i suddenly have the feeling that i might need to organise my parents also.
    i will see what is available in australia and get on to it later this month.

  • #209291

    bandicoot
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    gotta love teh google.
    i am downloading a form right now.

  • #209361

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    how did we survive before the internet?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • #209366

    whit
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    Estate planning has been on my mind too, recently. I just a minute ago got done with the medical exam needed to get a life insurance policy, and am slowly working on a “just-in-case” folder. We have a house insurance video documenting our possessions, but I need to put it and some of the documents in a fire-proof box. Suze Orman recommends a revokable living trust, in order to avoid most probate costs (in the US), so I’m going to look into that when we make our wills. I’ve been doing this on my own mostly since my husband doesn’t even see the point in making a will! He has more experience with young people passing away than I do and (in his opinion) hasn’t found it to be a problem, but I wonder if he wasn’t sheltered from the inconveniences and expenses a bit.

  • #211788

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    My aunt has been wrapping up the legal & financial residue of my grandmother, who died in North Dakota last month. Soooo grateful she was there and able/willing to cope with all of this … my other uncle lives in Alaska and Mom lives in Florida. The issue of a distant family is very much on my mind as I peck away at getting my own affairs in order.

    Started reading “Estate Planning Smarts” by Deborah Jacobs last week, very impressed so far. Planning to get through that on my lunch hours over the next 7-8 days. This week also, will be typing up my “electronic life” file.

    Much of this work can only be done at home, but at least the reading and compiling can be done at my office on my downtime. Have already learned that this is going to be a tad more complicated than I thought.

  • #211792

    baby steps to estate planning

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Chacha — just ordered it from the library.

  • #211804

    Northshore
    Participant

    baby steps to estate planning

    There’s a great workbook available from the Univ of Minnesota Extension. It’s called “Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?” and when I just looked at their website, I noticed a bunch of free articles as well. It was very helpful when we divided my parents’ possessions among eight children.

  • #211811

    Anonymous

    baby steps to estate planning

    Thanks for all the above comments. I am three days away from summer vacation (tiny sigh of relief) and the “To-Do” list is topped by this issue. DH and I need to do our own estate, and deal with his brother’s possessions which we have stored for a couple of years since a motorcycle accident took him from us. We are both eldest children of distant elderly parents and need to figure it all out as much as possible.

    Can a financial planner be helpful here if we are using one for investments? We need to deal with that issue as well.

  • #211857

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    Another Deb, just from the first third of the Jacobs book I would say if you have ANY significant assets – real estate, investment accounts, sizable life insurance policies, or expected inheritances – you are going to need an estate lawyer AND a CFP specializing in estates. You need one to check the other, and vice versa, because the laws and practices are so complex and mistakes happen.

    Just for starters: if the Obama administration’s temporary expansion of the estate tax allowance is not extended (or made permanent), in 2013 the allowance (amount that can be passed on tax-free) will be knocked back down from five million to one million dollars. Anything over that will be taxed not at the current 35% but at 55%.

    I had fully intended to DIY on my plan because DH and I have, on the surface, quite simple affairs – our assets certainly don’t total up to one million. But my parents’ probably do, so I have already revised this intention. Still mean to do most of the prep myself, but then I will be toddling upstairs to my firm’s estates department to ask for a legal eyeball over the whole thing.

  • #211858

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    General note to all: contracts are like healthcare. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Better to spend $1000 now on attorney and certified financial planner review of your estate plan, than for your heirs to spend $10,000 on taxes you could have avoided; on probate fees; or on suing an executor.

  • #211902

    rutheverhart
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    Thanks for the info ChaCha. Please keep us posted as to what you discover as you go along.

  • #212428

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    Almost done with “Estate Planning Smarts” and boy, let me tell you I am glad we do not have kids because if we did, I would think we really needed to set up a trust … and they seem like a snakepit of potential complications.

    As it is, I think DH and I will get by with a very basic package. The most complicated thing we’ll need to do is set up some kind of joint account for our executor so that s/he has immediate access to the funds s/he will need in order to wrap things up.

    I have finished compiling and typing up my “e-life” document which lists all my accounts, contacts, passwords, and assorted identity theft shortcuts. Having now done this, I have to email it to myself at home (using the office computer, I am unable to lock the doc with a password, so I don’t want to keep it here), then delete it from my work computer.

    This weekend I will be loading Quicken Willmaker onto my laptop at home and running the basic forms we need to review and discuss before filling them out.

    Also, I need to fill in a few blanks on some accounts, which will help me organize some financial-planning contortions I have to undertake independent of the estate plan.

    Later, I’ll need to direct DH to my “e-life” document and discuss with him whether he wants to do his equivalent with me, or on his own.

  • #212736

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    This weekend I filled in the blanks on my e-life guide and ran off the four “essential documents” from Willmaker:

    Will
    Final Arrangements Directive
    Power of Attorney
    Healthcare Directive

    Willmaker references the various states’ laws, so even though my version is 2010 I should be mostly covered and up to date. As with all Quicken products, the maker wants you to upgrade yearly! However, I will not be doing that. Until and unless our situation changes (i.e. we buy real estate) the basic documents should suffice.

    Now I have to nag DH into reading through my documents so we can discuss what he wants done with *his*. I expect it will be more expedient for me to prepare them, rather than go through the contortions necessary to get him to sit down with the software and do it himself … although I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

    Incidentally, for those who are following along, married couples should not prepare a single estate plan document. You are still two individuals and you almost certainly have some property that is not held in common. Each partner needs his/her own will, and the other three documents (or your states’ equivalents) DEFINITELY need to be done for and by each partner.

    And you may have certain wishes that the other person hasn’t thought about. I don’t want to be embalmed, do want to be cremated, don’t want any ceremonies, don’t want ashes buried, for example. Those are questions a survivor should not have to guess at the answers to, especially if they are grieving. I didn’t even think about the embalming question, or whether I would want a pre-cremation casket (um, no), until the software asked me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • #212739

    ninakk
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    i wish you were a finn, not american.

  • #212748

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    thanks? ๐Ÿ™‚ I know there are a lot of non-U.S.-based members here. I did a little Googling and came across this blog post: http://www.sindark.com/2009/10/28/inheritance-law-in-europe/
    which has a link to an article in The Economist and may be a good starting point for those who reside in the EU.

    I recommend searching the terms “inheritance law” and “wills and estates,” with your country name following, to see what you can find. Public libraries should also have resources, law schools are a good place to ask questions, and public agencies can often provide useful guidance.

    In the U.S. we are almost as prone to confusion as those in the EU and elsewhere, since one state’s laws may be quite different from those in the adjacent state, and the laws of the state you reside in at time of death are generally the ones that will be applied. One of many reasons not to leave this up to chance.

  • #212751

    bandicoot
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    i still have unread and unsigned enduring power of attorney forms sitting on my desk.
    *shameful*
    i have paid for them (last year!), the lawyer has contacted me twice to sign them, i just haven’t got around to reading them.
    and i won’t be reading them today either.
    dh and i need to read them together, so we can discuss.

  • #212753

    chacha1
    Member

    baby steps to estate planning

    tsk tsk! LOL

    The Willmaker durable Power of Attorney was by far the longest of the documents I prepared – 24 pages. But it reads fast. And this is a very, very important document.

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