First the good news! You are to be congratulated for creating your comprehensive estate plan with our firm. You have gone a long way towards protecting yourself and your loved ones.
If you have a trust-based plan, the protection level is increased for each asset that you own that has been properly coordinated with your trust. Most assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, mutual funds and business interests should be titled in the name of your trust. Others, such as life insurance, annuities and tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401k’s, should include the trust as a primary or secondary beneficiary. Which selection is right for your circumstances will depend on several factors. If you are not sure, contact our office.
We hope that you have also completed those sections of the binder where you are asked to provide information about your plan location, assets, names of your advisors, preferences about final services and disposition of remains, and other information that will be helpful to your successor trustee.
If the above matters have been addressed, you’re almost there. The final step is to make sure those closest to you know the plan exists and how they can access it.
For example, we strongly recommend that our clients keep their original estate planning documents either in a bank safe deposit box or a fire-proof home safe. There is a tab in your burgundy binder labeled “Location Lists” where you can identify where your documents are stored. Also make sure that your successor trustee knows how to access the safe deposit box and/or home safe.
How much information should you share with your family? That is, in part, a personal decision. We know that some of our clients are more open to sharing information than others. Regardless of your preference, your successor trustee should at least know where your documents are and have a general familiarity with its contents.
The best way to orient them to the plan and its layout is to show them the burgundy binder and ask them to review the Guided Tour booklet that was included in the front pocket of the binder. In less than 20 pages, the Guided Tour is a section by section overview of the estate plan.
If you are comfortable with more disclosure, you can provide them with copies of your documents.
As to those who are beneficiaries of the trust, but not serving as trustee, the amount of disclosure is more of a personal decision. Even if you don’t want to give a detailed explanation, it may be helpful to provide them with an overview of your intentions and some key information such as whether or not: (1) you have long-term-care insurance to cover the those costs, and, (2) you are including persons or beneficiaries, such as grandchildren or charities
We have generally found that the better your loved ones understand and respect your wishes while you are still alive, the lower the possibility of family disputes after you are gone.