| Plan Ahead:
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ArcR ecently, I represented a client whose father had passed away after a long illness; that illness was Alzheimer’s, and it was very hard on the entire family. Particularly difficult was the fact that the father was extremely distrustful, and told his son almost nothing about his business. This scenario is much more common than most people think. After the father’s passing, it took months for the son to marshal his father’s assets, and almost a year to uncover an IRA with almost $1 million in deposits with the son designated as the named beneficiary.
When illness and advanced age take their toll on a family member, it can be too late to uncover family business easily. With that in mind, I would make the following suggestions to all readers, even the ones who are middle aged because, if they are lucky, they, too will become old some day. And probably sick in some way or another; unfortunately, it is a fact of life, and a fact that many people choose to ignore. It is at the point that a family member becomes too ill that it is frequently, too late.
Firstly, be organized. It does not take very much time or money to get one’s financial organization together. Buy a folder in Staples, and place the following inside:
- Attorney’s name, address, telephone number and email address
- A copy of the Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy, Medical Directive, Power of Attorney; Original or Certified Copy of any Deeds to Real Property
- Accountant’s name, address, telephone number and email address with a copy of the most recent tax returns; if an e-filer, then information on where that return is electronically stored
- Copies of all bank accounts, brokerage accounts and insurance policies
- Copies of all pensions, IRA’s, 401K’s, etc.
- Copies of all leases, trusts, information on commercial or business interests, partners’ or shareholders’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses
- Passwords for all accounts and for computer access
- Family Tree with names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses for all; also, names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses for all Executors, Trustees, Guardians or other fiduciaries; also, names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses for all close friends and business associates not listed above
- Doctors’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, just in case the elderly person’s competence becomes a financial issue after his passing; at that point it can be very difficult to locate a doctor that treated the elderly family member
Having gathered all of the above in a central location and having placed all information in a file, the next step is to tell someone. Frequently, this is the tough step, and a step people often forego. Obviously, if you do not tell anyone about the file, then no one will know. Moreover, you may not be able to tell anyone once the information is needed which would make this entire exercise irrelevant. If discussing this topic is difficult for your family-a minority of adult children can act very non-adult when presented with this subject-then place a letter in your desk, an email in your computer, or a note in your humidor next to your favorite chair describing where the file is kept and what it contains.
I keep an Amish print next to my desk which reads…Plan Ahead-It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Arc…
The above list is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to constitute individual legal advice or a specific recommendation to any particular client./font>
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