Why an Estate “Directory” Can Help Your Family

Once your estate plan is done, or reviewed, if several years have elapsed since it was created, the next document you should create is an Estate Directory.

Families are vulnerable when a loved one dies. It can be difficult to make decisions, old family tensions may resurface and sibling rivalries erupt into no-holds-barred battles. The damage can be permanent.

Successful Farming’s recent article, “Create an Estate Directory,” suggests that one way to avoid this is to make sure your wishes are known long before anything happens to you. Along with important documents, there’s a considerable amount of information that will need to be accessed and shared. Getting it organized now can help family members reduce stress and avoid frustration. An estate directory form is a warehouse of information that can help a family carry out a person’s wishes. It can give them everything they need to know, in the event that a loved one dies.

Every adult should organize an estate directory. This document can assist aging parents to help their children and loved ones when they need to reach this information. This important exercise can bring a sense of relief to a family. Those in grief at the loss of a loved one aren’t troubled by pressing financial and logistical issues. If you’re married, complete it with your spouse. It can lead to discussions about gaps in your planning.

The estate directory should have information such as birth date, place of birth, driver’s license number, marriages, children, citizenship information and Social Security number. There should also be any personal facts such as your parents’ burial location, your funeral preferences, as well as important contact info and account passwords. Make sure that the document lists contact information for your financial planner, estate planning lawyer, executor, accountant, stockbroker, insurance agent and clergy. It should also include important documents such as: birth and marriage certificates, tax records, vehicle and property titles and military records.

Here’s the final important step. Give copies of your estate directory to your spouse, or the person who will be in charge of your estate. Be realistic about your family’s dynamics. Should only the oldest or most responsible child get a copy of the estate directory, or should all of the children get a copy? If you only give one child the document, make sure the others know that the document exists, who has it, and why. You might also want to make a copy on a thumb drive and share it with a trusted relative or friend.

Like your estate plan, this estate directory should be reviewed and updated every few years.

Reference: Successful Farming (August 2, 2017) “Create an Estate Directory