The “Daily Plan-It”

Keating Law, PLC

Volume 14, Issue 15 7/28/2011

© 2011 Keating Law, PLC, Phone: 586-498-8400. All rights reserved.


What Important Documents Should Your Clients Gather Before They Die?

 The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article online that we as advisors can use to teach clients the importance of proper estate planning. The Journal’s article, “25 Documents You Need Before You Die,” can be found online here: The article does an excellent job of explaining why it isn’t good enough simply to sign a bunch of papers establishing an estate plan and other end-of-life instructions. Clients must make heirs aware of them and leave the documents where they can find them. We help our clients create comprehensive notebooks that family members can access in an emergency, so they don’t have to scramble to find and organize a jumble of different bank accounts, insurance papers and investment accounts. Some clients store these documents with our office. Others lock them away in a safe-deposit box or at home in a fireproof safe.

 Our Top 5 Picks

Here’s a rundown of what we believe are the most important documents clients need to have signed. We highly recommend that clients begin collecting these as soon as possible and update them every few years to reflect changes in federal and state tax laws, their assets and preferences.

 1. An original Will is the most important document to keep on file. Dying without a Will means losing control of how assets are distributed. Instead, state law determines what happens.

 2. Because Wills are subject to probate court, we also recommend clients create a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) in addition to a Will, since they are more private and harder to dispute. An RLT can be changed anytime during your client’s lifetime.

 3. Also, clients need to make sure that their heirs have access to a Durable Financial Power-of-Attorney form. Without it, no one can make financial decisions on your client’s behalf in the event he is incapacitated.

 4. The most critical health-care document that clients need to fill out in advance is a Durable Health-Care Power-of-Attorney form. This allows a client’s designee to make health-care decisions on his behalf if he is incapacitated.

5. Completing our picks, clients should create a comprehensive list or documentation showing all property, vehicles, stocks, savings, businesses, investment accounts, loans made to others, and debts owed.

 A final recommendation we make is that clients should compile a list of their online account logins and passwords and share the list with a trusted family member or advisor.

I hope this article has helped you and your clients. As always, if you have a specific case or concern, please contact our office.