The Saturday Trust—Estate Planning: Let's Get Started!

Step I:  Information gathering 

Start with the Basics

The following is a list of vitally important information that your estate manager (executor of estate or successor trustee) will need in case anything should ever happen to you.

Keep important documents in a locked firebox in your home or in a bank safe deposit box.  If you choose to keep your docs at a bank, make absolutely sure that your executor / successor trustee is listed as a co-owner on the box, has signed the ledger at least once in the past year, and has a key to the box.  You will both need to go to the bank branch to set this up.

In addition, you'll want to give the your exec/suctr the address and contact info of the bank branch where you have your safe deposit box.  Tell him or her to access the box before notifying the branch that you are deceased.  The bank will freeze an account as soon as they are notified that the account owner is deceased, including access to a safe deposit box even if it is co-owned.  Without account passwords and other important documents, your executor /suctr will be powerless to even begin to manage the basics of your estate.

Leave written instructions for your executor / successor trustee to go to the branch immediately and clean out the box.  Then, they can notify the bank later after they have accessed the account information & downloaded all of the account info.  

This is the time to transfer funds to cover immediate and household expenses for at least two months (e.g. mortuary costs, monthly bills, change the locks, etc.).  This can be done online with access to the account, i.e. username & password info.  Your estate manager will need to start managing your accounts right away in order to determine which expenses are being paid out of which accounts.  It is unwise to drain a checking account, for example, if several household accounts are being auto-paid from that account.  

It will take a minimum of 2 weeks to receive an original death certificate which is required by the bank to release the freeze on the account.  They will not substitute a coroner's report or a burial permit from the mortuary.   Banks are required by law to obtain an original death certificate in order to unfreeze an account.  

If you keep your important docs in a locked firebox in your home, be sure to show your exec /suctr where the box is located and give that person a spare key.

I am going to talk about organizing all of this information later (i.e. What My Family Needs To Know planners), but for now, let's get started gathering personal information and important documents.  We will deal with medical and financial information separately.




Start with your personal information

Personal Information
  • Full Name:  Maiden Name & Married Name(s)
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Location of birth (county, city, state)
  • Mother's full name (maiden; first, middle & last)
  • Mother's birth date / death dates / still living
  • Mother's birth place (county, city, state)
  • Father's full name (first, middle & last)
  • Father's birth date / death date / still living
  • Father's place of birth (county, city, state)

Marital Status:  ☐ Single     ☐ Married     ☐ Divorced     ☐ Widowed


Provide marital information for all marriages & divorces.
  • Spouse's Name:  (#1)
  • Date of marriage
  • Location of marriage (county, city, state)
  • Date of divorce
  • Date of death
  • Children from this marriage (birth /death dates; adoption information for each child)
  • Status of relationship with these children (provide short descriptions, e.g. close, estranged, etc.)
  • Addresses & contact info for children
  • Step-children (birth /death dates; adoption information, biological parents)
  • Addresses & contact info for step-children

  • Spouse's Name (#2)
  • Date of marriage
  • Location of marriage (county, city, state)
  • Date of divorce
  • Date of death
  • Children from this marriage (Include birth /death dates; adoption information for each child
  • Status of relationship with these children (provide short descriptions, e.g. close, estranged, etc.)
  • Addresses & contact info for children
  • Step-children (birth /death dates; adoption information; biological parents)
  • Addresses & contact info for step-children


Education
  • High School (location & grad year)
  • College(s) (location; grad year & degree earned)

Religious Affiliation 
  • Faith
  • Church community (location & contact info)

People to contact in Case of Emergency
  • Family members—Names, phone #s, Facebook accounts & emails
  • Close Friends—Names & contact info (up to 4 people)
  • Helpful neighbors (names; contact info; reason they would be helpful, e.g. pet care, pick up/stop newspaper, etc.)
  • People to avoid (names & reason(s) why you do not want them involved)
  • Name & contact info of your Executor of Estate (EOE) &/or Successor Trustee (SUCTR)
  • Name & up-to-date contact info of your estate / trust attorney
  • Name & contact info of your accountant &/or financial advisor

Pet Names
  • List the names of your pets
  • Ages of pets
  • Behavior & personalities (e.g. friendly, shy, scared of strangers, may bite, etc.)
  • Type of food they are used to eating & how often
  • Immediate health issues, location of medications & instructions (e.g. diabetic, epileptic, etc.)
  • Name of vet & contact info

Residences
  • List your current & past residences as a legal adult (address; county, city & state)
  • Approximate dates at each location

Work History
  • Companies, locations & approximate dates of employment
  • Date of retirement

Professional & Community Memberships
  • Club memberships (Masonic, Elks, Eastern Star, American Bar Assoc, etc.)

Military Service
  • Branch of service
  • Enlistment dates
  • Original enlistment & discharge paperwork

Criminal History (Self &/or Spouse)
  • Conviction(s)—Date, location & charges
  • Incarceration(s)—Location (county, city, state) & time served
  • Probation—Location, length, start/end dates, name of probation officer(s)


Online & Account Passwords—IMPORTANT
  • Names of sites (Usernames, passwords & account numbers)
  • Security Questions (Mother's maiden name, favorite color, first pet, grammar school, etc.)
  • Laptop login username & password
  • Tablet login username & password
  • Desktop login username & password
  • ATM pin
  • Security / Alarm System (secret password & pad code)
  • Lock combinations (fence, briefcase, shed, workshop)
  • Auto keyless entry code


IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS (all in one location)
  • Social Security Card
  • Certified birth certificate
  • Original death certificates (5 copies)
  • Original marriage certificate
  • Final divorce decree paperwork
  • Passport
  • Immigration /Naturalization /Permanent Residency paperwork 
  • Work visa /Green card
  • Gun license(s) & location of each 
  • Safe deposit box &/or home safe keys
  • Car registrations
  • Brokerage account debit /credit cards
  • All other vehicle registrations (motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, boats, private planes, etc.) 
  • Pre-need contract with a funeral home (give a copy to your exec /suctr)
  • Living will & Medical Power of Attorney (give copies to your exec /suctr)
  • Trust, including the pour-over will OR your Last Will & Testament if you don't have a trust (a trust is easier & less expensive to adminster; a LW&T is handled in probate court by a probate judge & the estate attorney)

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