In this second part of my two-part blog series, I’d like to talk about the documents I feel are the most necessary to provide your family with the protection it deserves in the event of your death.
Pulling Together the Necessary Documents
I believe that it goes without saying that everyone should have a will. What is true of most families is doubly so when it comes to members of unique families. A will is your last opportunity to direct the state of your affairs, allocate monies or items to those you wish, and to provide your desires regarding the guardianship of your underage children. Naturally, your first order of business after creating the will is to place the original will in a location where it will be easily obtainable and found—not a copy! Copies can prolong the probate proceedings and therefore prolong the length of time before your assets can be distributed to their intended receiver. As I’ve already stated, wills sometimes appoint the guardianship of your children, therefore it is extra important—especially for unique families to have original and appropriate paperwork designating the custody of children.
Finding a home for the original document depends, certainly, upon your financial situation. Not everyone can afford a safety deposit box. I offer inexpensive storage of your documents as part of my estate planning package, not all attorney’s do, however. Still, depending upon the circumstances you are in there are safe storage methods for original documents, such as safe’s or lockboxes. Any location will do as long as it can easily be found by the right people and is easily retrievable in the event of your death. That means no burying it in the backyard like pirate’s treasure or putting it in the freezer (yes, this happens).
Many estate planners such as myself advocate the use of a revocable living trust by families that are concerned that their wishes and desires could be overruled, or that their assets would be delayed distribution in probate. Living trusts are harder to dispute in a court of law because (you) are the first “trustee” and as such establish a precedent for how you wish the trust to be managed. As with the will, the original document is absolutely 100% necessary for your beneficiaries and trustees to have on hand.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these two documents for any family, but especially for unique families. I have witnessed some of the most heart-breaking atrocities happen after people pass on. Children are taken away from the only living parent that they have ever known. Partners who worked to help support a family have lost homes and possessions. I don’t mean to scare anyone—well, maybe just a little—I honestly feel that in this rather uncertain political climate those of us with unique families must take those extra steps to provide for the people we love and cherish the most. Having an original will and/or revocable living trust helps us do just that.