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Make Sure Your Final Wishes Are Carried Out Through An Estate Planning ‘Road Map’

While you may have your estate plan, will, trusts, and other official documents in order, it might be in your best interest to have an additional document as well. Known as a “road map,” this additional document is essentially an informal letter that guides your family in executing your plan according to your wishes.

What To Address
Among other things, your road map may include:

  • A list of important contacts, including your estate planning attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and financial advisors
  • The location of your will, living and other trusts, tax returns and records, powers of attorney, insurance policies, deeds, and automobile titles
  • A personal financial statement that lists stocks, bonds, real estate, bank accounts, retirement plans, vehicles, and other assets, as well as information about mortgages, credit cards, and other debts
  • An inventory of digital assets — such as email accounts, online bank and brokerage accounts, online photo galleries, digital music and book collections, and social media accounts — including login credentials or a description of arrangements made to provide your representative with access
  • Computer passwords and home security system codes
  • Safe combinations and the location of any safety deposit boxes and keys
  • The location of family heirlooms or other valuable personal property

 

If you’ve preplanned your funeral, include information about the arrangements. If you haven’t preplanned it, consider explaining your burial wishes in the road map.

Communicate Your Motives
Use the road map to explain your reasoning behind certain estate planning decisions. Doing so can go a long way toward easing disputes over your estate after you’re gone.

For example, perhaps you’re distributing your assets unequally, distributing specific assets to specific heirs or placing certain restrictions on an heir’s entitlement to trust distributions. There are many good reasons for these strategies, but it’s important for your family to understand your motives to avoid hurt feelings.

Finally, like other estate planning documents, your road map won’t be effective unless your family knows where to find it, so consider leaving it with a trusted advisor.

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