You have to give a lot of thought to the estate administration process when you are engaged in your planning efforts. People often think of estate planning as an exercise in the creation of wills and trusts, but there is also a human element that enters the picture. Someone has to take action to bring your wishes to fruition.
If you use a last will to state your final wishes, the estate administrator would be the executor or personal representative. When you create the document, you can nominate someone to act as the executor.
The title of executor is not a ceremonial honor that you bestow upon someone for sentimental reasons. An estate executor will be handling the business of the estate, and this can be a formidable task. The will would be admitted to probate, and the court would supervise, but the executor would take care of the hands-on tasks.
What are these tasks? Final debts must be paid during the probate process, so creditors would be notified. Final taxes would be paid as well, so the executor would open a bank account on behalf of the estate. The property that comprises the estate would ultimately be prepared for distribution to the heirs, and this can include appraisals and liquidation.
When you are choosing an executor, you have to make sure that the person that you have in mind is willing to assume all of these responsibilities.
Letter of Final Instruction
There is a lot of information that the executor is going to need during the estate administration process. To pass along this information, you can create a letter of final instruction. In this letter, you let the executor know where to find important hard copy documents. This would include your will, life insurance policies, your birth certificate, your Social Security card, your marriage license, any divorce papers that you may have, military service discharge papers, etc.
You will also want to provide a list of the people who should be informed about your passing when you are creating your letter of final instruction. The location of keys to relevant property and safe deposit boxes would also be part of the equation.
In your letter of final instruction, you should pass along contact information for professionals, like your funeral director, your estate planning attorney, your accountant, and any other professionals that would be part of the estate administration process.
The Digital Element
We did not touch upon financial account information to this point because many people conduct their business online during our current era. Of course, if you do have hard copy financial account information that your executor will need, you should provide access information in your letter.
When it comes to accounts that you have online, you should pass along information about the accounts to your executor when you are leaving behind instructions. Plus, if you have been storing documents online that the executor will need, you should pass that information along as well.
Many people have websites and/or blogs, and if you are one of them, you should let your executor how you want these digital properties handled after you pass away. There is also the matter of social media accounts. Just about everyone has a Facebook account, and you have a couple of options when it comes to your Facebook page.
You could have the account deleted entirely, or you could memorialize your Facebook page. If you memorialize your account, the word Remembering will appear next to your name.
The content that you shared with your friends will still be shown on your memorialized page. If you want to allow it, you can set your account to permit friends to leave messages and share memories on your account after you are gone. Once it is memorialized, no one would be able to log into your account.
If you have additional social media accounts, you can instruct your executor with regard to the way that you want these accounts handled after you pass away.
These are a few specific things to keep in mind when you are planning your estate in the digital age, but if you give it some thought, you may recognize other information that your executor will need.
Attend a Free Seminar
We have touched upon one estate planning element in this blog post, but you can learn a great deal more if you attend one of our free seminars. If you attend one of our sessions, you will also qualify for a free one-on-one consultation with our firm.
Visit our seminar schedule page to obtain more details and registration information.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.