After Divorce: Four Steps to Organize Your Estate

canstockphoto5627196 Safe Deposit BoxNow that you are divorced, you cannot rely on a spouse to handle things if you wind up incapacitated for a while. You are on your own to help your family cope with an unexpected health issue or sudden death.

There are various ways you can do this. You don’t have to adhere to any specific rules. You can do an internet search for “documents to share with heirs” to find several articles and products. Going through this process can have other benefits. You can double-check the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, annuities and pension benefits. You can ensure your financial documents end up in the right hands. You can show your love for your children by making a transition easier.

Estate Planning

Your paper trail should include the name and contact information for your estate planning attorney who has your original or copies of executed documents. This can make a difference for your loved ones right off the bat. They will be able to find out the beneficiaries of your estate as well as whom you chose to be your administrator or executor, your health care surrogate, and your power of attorney or guardian. If you do not have an estate planning attorney, be sure to include a copy of your Will, Power of Attorney, trusts and other estate documents. List your beneficiaries, list who gets which personal items and locations of important items.

Professional Advisors, Financial Assets & Cash Flow

As I learned when my father passed away, it is very difficult to search for financial assets. Financial institutions can refuse to release or verify account information. Your paper trail should include a list of financial institutions, account numbers, advisor name(s) and real property. Also include such information as income sources, automatic bill paying and how to stop them, credit card information and charitable contribution details. Keep this information in a safe place to protect you from identity theft. Update it annually.

Beneficiaries

It is important that beneficiary designations are correct and complete. Not much can be done about incorrect or incomplete beneficiary designations after you are gone. These will be on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities and pay-on-death accounts. A beneficiary designation form is designed to be a contract. It will dictate who will get assets regardless of what your Will says. Years ago I heard about a pension benefit that went to the former spouse instead of to the widow and four children because the deceased never updated his beneficiary designation.

Passwords

Having a list of passwords can save your loved ones a lot of headaches. If you have a password software, be sure you list the password to open it. If you do not have all your passwords on this kind of application, you should list the passwords that are not included. Remember to list the password to your computer and your cell phone. This will give heirs quick access to your contacts to notify them of what has happened.

If you have recently gone through a divorce — or are currently amidst the process — paying attention to the long-term needs of your estate is imperative and will prove helpful to your family. I can help walk you through the process of establishing a plan, completing important documents and refer you to necessary professionals. Give me a call at (979) 324-8179 or through my contact form to set up a time to talk through the specifics of your estate.

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