A well-crafted estate plan ensures that your final wishes are carried out and your estate distributed to the heirs you have chosen. However, mistakes can derail the best-laid plans. You may feel good about your Last Will & Testament, but you should also be confident that you have accurate personal and financial records.
U.S. News and World Report explains that problems with your records could cause major issues for your executor and your family. There are a variety of ways a person might incorrectly maintain important records.
Poor financial records
If your executor needs to take control of your personal residence, a vehicle, or any other personal or real property you own, you need to provide your executor with accurate ownership records and tax documents. Unfortunately, some people keep records that have errors or are incomplete. Records that include incorrect information can put your executor at the risk of making bad decisions regarding your estate.
Missing ownership records
Ownership records like deeds or a bill of sale can be important in proving you have sold or bought property. If you do not have these documents or have misplaced them, it can put your executor in a bind. He or she may have to petition the Court for proof of your ownership. Also, creditors may make claims against your estate for debts were that were satisfied.
Improper state records
If you have moved to New York from another state, you may have to update your personal and financial documents to meet the requirements of state law. The tax laws and document execution formalities in New York may differ from the state where you previously resided. As a result, you will have to change or replace your records once you have taken up residence in New York.
Perhaps the worst situation your heirs could face is the inability to find or access your records. Some people do not maintain records or remember where they stored them. You may want to discuss the location of your records with your heirs or draft a letter of instruction noting where your records are.
We live in a digital age. It is imperative that you also memorialize passwords to devices such as your mobile phone, computers, tablets, and websites. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to have phone companies or other entities allow access.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on how to achieve your estate planning goals and help you determine the records necessary to ensure a smooth, litigation-free, transfer of assets at your death.