101 death hacks: part 2

Welcome to our fifth and final part of our 101 Death Hacks.

Keeping it Current

  1. Update your fiduciaries’ contact information every time their information changes
    Your family and your estate planner will need to find your executor and/or successor trustee, so make it easy by keeping your list of contact info current.
  2. Review your life insurance beneficiary designations every year
    Plans change. Family members change. Your life changes. Make sure your beneficiary designations change with them.
  3. Review your retirement account beneficiary designations every year
  4. Keep your most recent tax return with your estate plan documents
    Your executor will need to file your final tax return. Having your most recent tax return as a reference point can be incredibly beneficial.

Review your plan regularly

  1. Reconfirm your list of fiduciaries every year
  2. Double check annually that your trust is fully funded
    Obviously you need to have a signed trust agreement in order to have a good trust, but funding is equally as important to the effectiveness of your estate plan. Without funding, your trust will do you no good, especially if you only created it to avoid probate. Review your funding every year to make sure your trust will do the work it’s designed to do.
  3. Link your estate plan review and/or update to your annual income tax appointment
    You do your taxes every year because you have to. But you probably haven’t looked at your will in at least five years. Why not schedule an estate plan review for the same day as your tax appointment. Do them back-to-back and you can practically kill two birds with one stone.
  4. Read your will or trust summary on your own every year
    If you don’t look at what your will or trust does regularly, you’ll probably forget what you wrote down. Review your will or trust summary every year to keep current on the basics.
  5. Review your estate plan documents with your estate planner at least every three years
    There are about 43 common life-changing events; many of them happen multiple times in your life. Of those events, you should review your will after at least 25 of them!  Make it easy: schedule your review to repeat every year.
  6. Join your lawyer’s client maintenance program Your estate planner should offer some type of review system to ensure your plan stays current. Sign up for the program, even if it costs some money. Maintenance programs commonly offer basic changes and amendments at no additional cost, so it’s usually worth the cost to get the peace of mind that someone is tracking the changes in your life.

Hack Your Death by Tying up Loose Ends

  1. Make a list of your online accounts
    Digital estate planning is a relatively new need – the Internet is only a couple of decades old, after all. But you probably have digital assets that you will need to deal with and accounts that will need to be closed.
  2. Don’t take your passwords/combinations to your grave
    Now that you have a list of your online accounts, write out the log-in information to each of them. Your executor will need this to close or transfer your accounts.
  3. Make a list of any print or online subscriptions you may have
    Your executor will need to cancel your subscriptions, so your estate doesn’t continue to pay the subscription fees. Your list should include both magazines and newspapers and online services like Netflix, AmazonPrime, or Audible.
  4. Instruct your executor and your trustee to work together
    Executors and trustees do different jobs. In fact, their jobs are so distinct that they may not know the other person exists. Simply instructing them to cooperate will alert them that two people are involved in handling your final affairs.
  5. Make sure your will is properly executed
    You can’t hand write your will and expect it to be followed. In Iowa you need to sign your will in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses need to sign in your presence and in each other’s presence.
  6. Have you provided for the care of your pets?
  7. Make sure your personal property memorandum is signed and dated
    You don’t need witnesses for the list of personal property you make, but it still needs to be signed and dated so that we know you’re the one who made the list.
  8. Double check that life insurance and retirement accounts will not pass through probate unless that is your express intent
  9. Recommend a probate lawyer
    Your estate planner may or may not handle probate and trust administration (our office will does both!). Regardless, recommending a lawyer for your family to work with can give them a place to start, even if they opt not to hire that lawyer in the end.
  10. Purchase a fireproof box or safe to keep your papers in
    You don’t need a safety deposit box. In fact, as long as you give someone the combination, it can be easier for your family if you store your important documents in a fireproof file or safe in your own home.
  11. Make a list of the people who should be notified of your death
    Your immediate family probably already knows of your passing, but there are other people and organizations that may need or want to know. List them out to simplify the process.

Thanks for sticking with us on our five-part journey and 101 ways to “hack your death.”  Taking these hacks to heart will make it easier on your loved ones to handle your estate after you pass.  However, speaking to a professional as soon as possible will better ensure that your legacy gets left behind in the way you want.

That’s 101 hacks to help you put your estate plan in place. If you stuck with the list through all 101, well done! If you just ran across this series for the first time, you can find the full list of items by clicking here.