A death in the family is an inevitable tragedy that is hard to accept. Yet, when that day comes, wouldn’t you want to avoid more trauma in dealing with loose documents, accounts, and files that your deceased relative left for you? The lack of preparation prior to death can have tumultuous consequences. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), state treasurers hold about $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts. Do not let this happen to you.
Perhaps the most important document to create and retain is the last will and testament. This document identifies your beneficiaries and the guardians if your children are underage and your allocation of assets. Without this document, state law will decide what happens. Perhaps next to the last will and testament is the living trust. The living trust is a document that can be changed anytime during your lifetime and is much more private than the last will. The living trust avoids the probate process, which means the court stays completely out of your inheritance. Without the trust, you essentially set your family up for litigation. On top of the last will and trust, make sure to hold on to all of your ownership certificates such as your house, vehicles, stocks, bonds, cemetery plots, any other land ownership, and a list of brokerage and escrow mortgage accounts. Again, these documents could save your family years of searching and litigation to determine what you actually own.
These documents are the beginning to keeping your family organized and financially, worry-free of legal problems following your death. It is your responsibility to hold on to these documents either with an attorney or in a fireproof safe in your home.