If you are the executor of your parent’s will, or a spouse who is now facing this task, Retire-At-Home Services Toronto and North York would like to offer you some “executor help”. Knowing that your parents are getting elderly, and possibly facing a life threatening surgery or illness, it may be important to begin gathering information and documents as soon as possible. Having the help of your parents in locating the information and documents needed would be invaluable. Searching for the information after your loved one passes may be more difficult, but not impossible.
Penny Schneider, who owns the Toronto company ‘The Estate Organizer’, is one of the most organized and thorough people we know. If you need a helping hand, or someone to take over this daunting task altogether, you can contact her at http://www.theestateorganizer.ca . Penny advises that everyone should compile an “Executor Start Here” file, so that in any health or life threatening emergency, an executor or power of attorney can lay their hands on the information they need. The documents and information in the “Executor Start Here” file should lead you to all of the assets and important documents needed to look after someone’s estate.
Whether you are organizing your parents’ estate matters or creating an emergency information kit for yourself, this list will give you an idea of some of information to include:
1. Will, Trust and Powers of Attorney Documents
To be an executor or power of attorney, you will need to be able to find the Will, Trust, and power of attorney documents in order to act. If you prefer to keep these documents in a safe deposit box, include a notarized copy in the “executor start here” file. Notarization means that a Notary Public has certified that the copy is a true and accurate copy of the original document. Executors will need to get several certified/notarized copies of the Will in order to act and generally do so after the fact. The notarized copy will enable you to act immediately and will enable you to quickly retrieve the original from the safe deposit box. The original copy of the Will is only to be used for probate purposes.
2. Pre-planned Funeral or Memorial Arrangements
Have your parents or loved one made any arrangements that have already been paid for? Do you have access to both the contract and the contact information for the funeral director or other organizer?
3. Contact information for Family, Friends and Other Beneficiaries
As executor, you must be able to find the names, addresses and ages of all the beneficiaries and then inform them of their interests under the Will. Include those who should be notified if a serious emergency were to occur.
4. Contact Information of Your Advisors and Other Professionals
Make a list of all the professionals you deal with on a yearly, or more frequent, basis such as your accountant, banker, broker, doctor, dentist, financial planner, insurance agent, lawyer, spiritual advisor, veterinarian, etc. These professionals should be notified of a death so that accounts can be closed and any receipts for tax purposes can be issued.
5. Financial Information
Gather a list of all your parents’ credit card numbers and contact information. Also list bank account numbers and locations, annuities, life insurance and any other insurance policies. Find information as to stocks, bonds and other investments. Contact the banks where your parents hold their accounts and ask if there are any other investments or lines of credit held there as well.
6. Important Personal Papers
Gather your parents’ passport(s), driver and other licences, social insurance numbers along with certificates for birth, adoption, citizenship, marriage, separation, divorce, business partnership agreements or interests and the like.
7. Contact Information of Key Business Contacts
A list of those to call in case of an emergency, incapacity or death.
8. A List of Assets – Real Property
You will need a detailed list of your parent’s real estate including deeds (house, cottage and/or other real estate), records of property improvements, mortgage papers and payment receipts and insurance policies. This information is needed for both probate and the estate information return.
9. A List of Assets – Personal Property
Personal property includes tangible items such as art, cash, jewellery, furniture and vehicles and also intangible things like digital assets, patents and stocks. Photographs and appraisals can be included for identification, the estate inventory, and insurance purposes.
10. Digital Assets, Passwords, etc.
A list of your online accounts with usernames and passwords. This, of course, is becoming more and more important. You will more than likely want to shut down email accounts and purchasing accounts. If your parent or loved one was on Facebook, you can notify Facebook of a death, and they will memorialize the account. Verified family members can also request the Facebook account to be removed.
Executor help: where to store the file
Keep this information in an easy to remember (and easy to find) place for emergencies. If you are gathering this information for your own personal estate, let your executor know where to find the file that you just made. You might choose a portable fireproof box, a knapsack in the front hall closet or in whatever and wherever you choose.
Because of the nature of the information be sure that “ease of retrieval” does not equal “easy to steal”. Update the information when you open a new account or change your username or password and remember to review the information every year for anything you may have missed.
Penny Schneider, The Estate Organizer