This quote is from Amy Packard, creator of “Good to Go.”
As estate planning attorneys, we ask our clients to “name a Personal Representative (f/k/a Executor)”. Once that person or people are named, how do we equip them for success, so they don’t get angry with us for leaving them “a mess”?
Having a Will and/or Trust in place is critical, but useless if no one can find it. Do your “people” know where they can find the original documents, or the information on the people holding the original documents (for example, Danger Law will hold originals for our clients)?
The Will and/or Trust are really just sets of instructions about our “stuff” – actual tangible stuff, online stuff, etc. Can your people get to your stuff? For physical things, do your people know where it is? For digital, crypto, or online stuff, do your people know the extent of your online footprint and how to access it (IDs, passwords, etc.)?
So, the observations above give us a set of tasks to set up our Personal Representative or Trustee for success! Here are a few suggestions on how to carry through:
- Talk to your family about the broad strokes NOW and any time material provisions change thereafter. Especially if it’s a parent/child relationship, while you are still the parents, you still “have the power.” Explain WHY you did what you did and how you hope your kids will behave once one or both of you are gone, ESPECIALLY IF THEY AREN’T GETTING EQUAL SHARES OF EVERYTHING. That shouldn’t fall to your Personal Representative or Trustee.
- Name someone YOU want in the above roles…not who you think “should” be in it. Relationships have been destroyed and administration delayed/drawn out because two people are appointed who cannot get along. This is an extremely emotional time and often this role can be an outlet for a lot of negative emotions and unresolved issues.
- Talk to your kids or beneficiaries about your “things” now. Relationships have been destroyed over a $50 Thanksgiving Platter.
- Find out if anyone feels strongly about X (or more than one person) and try to resolve that NOW.
- Have a “family auction.” Use Monopoly Money and have the family bid on the “things” they feel most strongly about.
- A Password Manager
- There are books like “I’m Dead Now What,” “When I’m Gone,” ”Getting It Together, etc.). If you use a printed book KEEP IT UPDATED!
- Password Managers like Last Pass, Dashlane (name your Power of Attorney and Personal Representative/Trustee as “Emergency Person”)
- Name your Personal Representative specifically on Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. These organizations are EXTREMELY difficult to deal with as a Personal Representative.
- A list of accounts! Or at least institutions where you have accounts!
- Especially important if you have any crypto-assets.
- The above “password manager tools” help aggregate this.
- A copy of the documents and, if you have a preference, which attorney they should hire.
- Safe deposit boxes are NOT good ideas…you need the documents to access the box and even then it can be challenging.