Scott Taylor Smith, author of the book "When Someone Dies," recently wrote an article suggesting several important steps folks can take to make things easier on their loved ones when they die. Many, if not most, of these suggestions are routinely handled in the estate planning process. Some of them, however, may not be, so we'll take a look at what he says.
The first suggestion is to create an estate plan file, and place copies of all your estate planning documents in the file. The estate plan should address any legacy gifts you wish to make. These documents include your will, health care directive or medical power of attorney, any living trust, guardianship decisions, real estate and financial records, any organ donation wishes, and information pertaining to digital assets. The executor should be clearly identified, and copies of all documents should be provided to him or her, as well as heirs and family members.
Another suggestion is to add the executor as a co-signer on your financial accounts. This allows them to access bank and investment accounts to immediately pay for funeral and other expenses. That money will also be available during probate.
Renting a safe deposit box is suggested, as this will keep your estate planning documents safe in the event your home is destroyed. Name your primary executor as a co-signer for the safe deposit box, so that he or she has immediate access to its contents. He or she should also have a copy of the key.
Funeral requests are sometimes placed in one's will, but not always. Wherever they are addressed, it is important that enough details are specified so that loved one's know your wishes. In addition, it is important to identify wishes pertaining to your grave location.
Finally, it is important to remember to update your estate plan regularly. Estate planning is not a one-time event or a task, but a commitment to a process.
Source: Huffington Post, "9 Ways To Make Things Easier For Your Survivors," Scott Taylor Smith, April 20, 2013