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Kevin-Barry Henry

What is an Estate Organizer and Why You Need One?

By: Kevin-Barry Henry, #1 Bestselling Author

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An estate organizer is simply a listing of all the necessary information required for an estate plan. It is usually a binder or portfolio (or two) and aside from being an easy access point for you to go over your holdings, it is the most important collection of documents to your trusted executor. It is a living catalogue that gets updated as your estate grows. Imagine the peace of mind of knowing everything will go exactly as planned?

They can also be backed up electronically or on a thumb drive that would be kept separate. I always make sure my clients know about estate organizers during our first meeting together, because it is not something you want to put off for another day. We’ve already covered what can happen when you leave things to when you get around to them. The initial consultation with an advisor (or contact me here) takes less than an hour and the whole thing should cost around a hundred dollars.

An estate organizer is the first thing your executor and family will want to get their hands on to manage your affairs if something happens to you, whether you die, or are somehow incapacitated and need ongoing care. This is like an emergency phone to communicate with your loved ones when you might no longer be around. Make sure the message is the one you want to send!

In addition to all your assets and liabilities, the estate organizer will also have your important documents such as your will, your life insurance policies, funeral directions, powers of attorney, trust information and the people you want notified in the event of an emergency. It also keeps everything at your fingertips for when you or your family will need it most. It is your voice.

The First Part

The first part of the estate organizer will have all your emergency information and contacts, along with a list of your advisors:

  • Emergency Contacts List
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Financial Advisor
  • Executor

This part is intended to make it easy for your family or executor to be able to deal with any difficult situations for which you may need help by having access to whoever is required on short notice.

The Second Part

The second part is the important legal documents that your family and executor will want to access. The estate directory will have copies of the following documents in this section:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Living Power of Attorney (personal care)
  • Living Power of Attorney (financial or property)

If your executor is a trust company and someone you don’t know well, then include as much in this section as you can. You would be surprised what can be useful when you’re no longer here to answer the simple questions. That said, don’t just stuff any piece of mail or correspondence in it. It is an important storage place for your important documents, but if it becomes a place to hoard your papers, then it won’t work as intended.

It is a data collection to harvest all the important information that you have.

If you have a special needs child, it important to state what sort of provisions that have been put in place to care for him or her. The paperwork will come after. This section is just a quick view of what is important now.

Those should be the opening chapters of an estate organizer, and you can already see why an executor – not to mention your family and loved ones – would be relieved to find that you had the foresight to put this together.

For you, this is the beginning of an asset list that you can refer to when you are doing your own financial planning and you pretend to be Warren Buffet.

The Third Part

The next section will have your personal and health insurance documents, so whichever is needed, your family can access the information. I can’t tell you how valuable this information is. My father has wonderful health insurance that my sister Lisa helps him with. Early on in my father’s transition of the financial reins (when he was no longer interested in taking care of them), we needed to find out a tonne of information in a very short period of time to make sure his medication wasn’t interrupted or jeopardized. This section of the directory is like your own data storage unit, and your family will love you for building one. Trust me.

  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Critical Illness Policies
  • Disability Insurance Policies
  • Long-Term Care Insurance Policies
  • Group Health Insurance Certificate
  • Private Health Insurance Policy

The Fourth Part

The next section is also insurance, but the insurance you buy for your property, not yourself.

  • Home
  • Auto
  • Other (Business/Rental)

This section doesn’t need much more detail. Most Canadians carry at least one of these policies, and they are meant to cover the risk of something happening to your home, your automobile, or if you’re self-employed your business. They are usually policies that last one year and are renewable. If you don’t make a claim you lose your premiums as the cost of being covered. If you do make a claim, the insurance company will cover some or all of the expense related to the claim. This information will also appear in your estate organizer, so your family and executor can find easy access to it. This is important if something were to happen to you in an automobile accident for example.

The Fifth Part

Now we are really rolling up our sleeves and digging into your asset list with the banking and investment documents. This is the section that will become very important to keep track of, because along with your real estate, these assets will need to be portioned out to your chosen beneficiaries. If we do our job properly, we will minimize the tax burden so that as much of these assets as possible ends up with your beneficiaries, as you have chosen and directed, and not with the government.

  • Pension Documents
  • Bank Accounts
  • Registered Accounts
  • Non-Registered Accounts
  • Government Benefits (CPP, OAS, etc.)
  • Personal Items
  • Home Ownership Documents
  • Cottage Ownership Documents
  • Other Real Estate Holdings and supporting documents
  • Business Interests
  • Land Ownership Documents.

As you can see, we are creating your personal asset list. Hopefully, this exercise is already helping you think about the division of assets, and how you might like to distribute them.

As you go through the exercise, you may be unsure how you want to deal with one thing or another, or have no idea how to deal with a certain asset. You don’t have to have the answer today, but keep it on your radar that you will need to figure out at some point

When my sisters and I were faced with getting my father into an extended care facility, our cumulative knowledge of the process could have fit on a postage stamp. We asked questions, stood in line, waited, called, and eventually, found some answers. That process continues today as we navigate the sandwich generation challenges, but things are so much better now. For all of us.

The idea behind the estate organizer is to keep all your required information in one easy spot. It will ultimately serve as the go-to manual for your executor and your family, so that your final wishes are carried out the way you planned them.

You’ll find all your important financial documents right where they should be. You’ll find your will, your burial instructions and your final wishes. You will also find other things you may not have considered such as keys for mailboxes, safety deposit boxes, titles, where the jewellery is, what is in the family safe, what debts you have and how to disable your facebook and twitter accounts.

You will also find things like your frequent flyer accounts. Did you know that if your spouse is not carrying an active supplement card, when you die, your miles die with you? You should always read the fine print, and the transition of asset at death details are always in the fine print. I’m not trying to play the role of Ralph Nader, but it has been my experience that just knowing what the rules are will usually make fixing the problem much easier. Usually…

The Checklist

Let’s take a look at the checklist :

  • Your Name, age, address, etc.
  • Emergency Contacts (Doctor, Family, Executor, Lawyer…. Etc.) –
  • Last Will And Testament
  • Living Power of Attorney – Personal care
  • Living Power of Attorney – Property
  • Land and Property Ownership
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Critical Illness Policies
  • Disability Insurance Policies
  • Group and Organizational Insurance Benefits
  • Home Insurance Policies
  • Automobile Insurance Policies
  • Other Insurance Documents (Business, ATV, Boat, etc.)
  • Pension Documents
  • Home Ownership Deeds
  • Registered Investments
  • Government Benefits Information (CPP, OAS, etc.)
  • Non-Registered Investments
  • Bank Accounts
  • Online or Telephone Banking Access
  • Crypto Currency Wallets
  • Mortgage Documents
  • Credit Card Statement
  • Outstanding Loan Documents
  • Line of Credit
  • Liens on Property
  • Legal Actions Pending
  • Contractual Obligations
  • Security Signed for a Third Party (co-signed on a loan)
  • Pre-Arranged Funeral
  • Name of Funeral Home and Contact
  • Buried, Cremated or Entombed
  • Location of Burial Plot
  • Pet Care
  • Intellectual and Social Media Accounts
  • Safety Deposit Box
  • Safe
  • Jewellery
  • Cars
  • Art
  • Anything not included

 

As you can see, it is a comprehensive list. You probably don’t have all this information right now in one format. That’s OK. Time to start thinking about it. It’s what I wanted this book to do. If you are anything like me, you might be personally disturbed with your lack of organization in these key areas, but all is not lost. We can do this together.s

Where do I keep it?

You should store it somewhere safe, or even in a safe. I have a client who told me a funny story about his employer sponsored pre-retirement course. A lawyer was talking to them and discussing important documents and their storage. His advice was not typical. He advised them to store their documents in the freezer. He claimed that if a fire was to break out, the freezer is the last thing to burn, and your documents will stay safe. I have not tested this advice, nor do I recommend it, but I have certainly heard worse logic.

The best way to get through this might be with the help of an expert, so don’t be shy to contact your advisor to talk about setting up your own estate directory. You now understand all the components and how they work together. The goal is to make your transition of wealth as easy to deal with as possible.

You should sit down with your family and executor and talk with them about your directory. Let them know that it exists, and where they can find it when the time comes. They probably won’t think to check the freezer.

Ten thousand people will turn 65 every single day for the next 16 or 17 years.  There has never been a bigger shift in wealth and assets before. The legislation to oversee and govern this transfer has never been more restrictive either.

The coming years will see and enormous amount of people who will need to get their affairs in order. The estate organizer is the easiest – and cheapest – way to get your assets divided and your wishes fulfilled.

If you are interested in a do it yourself estate organizer kit contact me here

At the end of it all, it is not how much you have, but how much you keep.

With Gratitude,

Kevin-Barry Henry

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