Things to consider after you execute your estate planning documents:
Fund the Trust. You must transfer your assets into your trust. Although some property can be transferred to a trust after your death using a simplified probate procedure, if you hold any real property or assets with an aggregate value of over $150,000, outside of a trust, a probate may be required. Deeds must be prepared for all real property. Bank and brokerage accounts should be transferred by contacting the financial entity and completing their required forms. To transfer interests in entities (corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships) contact the company to direct the transfer and providing an assignment for the interest.
Revise Beneficiary Designations. Life insurance, annuities, IRAs, pensions, and payable-on-death accounts are not normally transferred to your trust during lifetime (with the exception of life insurance trusts). Instead, these assets are usually transferred upon your death in the manner you designate on a “beneficiary” form. You should discuss these assets with your attorney to ensure your designations are consistent with the rest of your plan. Some assets are best left to a surviving spouse or children (such as IRAs, which can be “rolled over” into an account for such a beneficiary and taken out over the lifetime of the new owner as opposed to over a 5 year term). These assets can usually be transferred by contacting the company providing the benefit to request a new beneficiary designation form. Your attorney can also assist you to obtain and complete these forms.
Prepare a Memo to the Trustee. One extremely helpful thing you can do is to prepare a memorandum for your agent listing key information he or she may need. This includes your computer and cell phone passwords, as well as passwords for any internet sites you regularly visit, such as your bank, brokerage account, and retirement accounts, any shopping sites you participate in such as E-Bay, and for your social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is also very helpful to make a list of your regular bills, along with their due dates. A list of all debts is also helpful, including your mortgage, lines of credit and credit cards. Finally, include information for your health care agent regarding your physicians and any current conditions of which they should be made aware.
Prepare a Memo to the Guardian. If you have minor children, a memo to the guardian is also very helpful. It should list where your children go to school or day care, the names of their health care providers (doctors, dentists, orthodontist, ophthalmologist, etc.), any significant health issues such as severe allergies, sleeping and food preferences, and anything else that you think would be helpful to the guardian to know. If you have pets, information about their veterinarian, behavior issues, health problems, and food preferences can be helpful to the trustee. Sharing this information will reduce the stress and minimize transition problems for your children, pets and their new guardians.
Share Your Documents. We recommend you also consider sharing your documents with your named agents so that they know what you want and can ask any questions they have of you (or your attorney). Your agent should be given the name and contact information for your attorney and other agents (if you have more than one agent), and should know where and how to access your original documents should something happen to you.
Review Your Paperwork Periodically. Performing a quick annual review of your paperwork is also a good idea, as is reviewing documents more thoroughly whenever you experience a major life event (illness, marriage, birth of a child, divorce, retirement or long term unemployment, or the death of a loved one). Changes in your passwords, assets or debts, and the needs of your children, should be noted. Any changes requiring the assistance of your attorney should also be addressed (such as changing an agent or guardian).
Estate planning is a continual process but need not be especially time consuming or stressful once you put your plan in place. Having a complete plan, and keeping it current, can help to reduce stress for yourself and others in the event of your disability or death.