Spring Cleaning and Estate Planning

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Springtime is here and with that, people often think about spring cleaning. This involves tidying up your home, getting rid of things, and keeping what matters. In the era of Konmari, there is the element of tossing what doesn’t “spark joy.” Unfortunately, there are some things that we have to retain or think about that even though they are not our favorite.

In this digital age, it can be easier to keep track of records, though your recordkeeping strategies may need some improvement so you can find everything. Here is a good list of what you’ll want to keep handy and updated from a professional and estate planning point of view:

1. Tax Records:  Keep income tax returns for several years for a few different reasons: risk of audit, access for your accountant to review previous records if necessary, and also for your successor trustee to have in case they need to take on their financial role for your estate.

2. Policies, Statements, and Contracts:  It’s important to keep your policies (e.g. life insurance, retirement accounts), statements (bank, credit card, brokerage), and contracts accessible so that you remember the details and your successor trustee is aware of what exists. This will be helpful for your successor trustee to track down what companies to contact with regards to administering your estate comprehensively.

3. Car titles :  Keep records of the purchase, registration, title and lien release for any cars that you own. If you have sold the car, you can go ahead and toss these. (Make sure if you sold your car that you release the title from your name!)

4. Mortgage and Real Estate Documents:  Keep mortgage documents and statements until you have paid off your loan and the deed of trust (lien on the property) has been released. Keep your grant deeds with your Estate Planning Binder.

5. Update your Asset List: We encourage all our clients to keep an updated list of the assets you currently own in their Estate Planning Binder. It’s easy to lose track of where we have all of our accounts so keeping a list will be important for yourself and your successor trustee. Additionally, make sure that any new assets are funded to the trust appropriately. (Note: if certain bank accounts have no activity for an extended period of time, the account may be frozen and ultimately, funds may be remitted to the state’s unclaimed property unit. If you are not planning to use a certain financial institution, it may be good to just consolidate your accounts with another bank.)

6. Estate Planning Documents:  Make sure your Estate Planning binder is still in good shape and in an accessible location that you have told your nominees about. Ensure that if there are outdated documents due to amendment or restatement, you have gotten rid of the outdated versions. Also, this is a great time to review the documents and see if there are any changes that need to be made due to changes in your wishes, family dynamics, or the law.

We hope these tips are helpful for keeping your life organized and keeping your Estate Planning related affairs cleaned up.