We have talked about and written on everything and anything about estate planning over the years. And we are happy to report that many clients just like you and your family are not only listening but also putting our practical tips to good use. So here is another tip: make sure you have an asset list as part of your estate plan and that your loved ones know where to find it.

While treasure hunting may have been fun when we were kids, there is nothing more overwhelming and detrimental to your estate when family members are unable to locate your assets when it’s their time to take care of them.

Or worse, not even knowing those items exist (hidden cash, life insurance policies, bank accounts, passwords, etc.)

In my book, Who Gets Your Stuff When You Die, I explain that these scenarios play out a lot more than most people think. That’s why it is important to create a detailed asset list with all your assets, documents, passwords, etc., and where to find them. Doing this saves your family a great deal of stress and effort in the long run. It also gives them peace of mind that they haven’t missed anything. After all, you’re no longer there to tell them.

What should I include on this asset list?

Insurance policies — Write down the name of the insurance company, address and phone number, name of insured, name of beneficiary, amount of benefit, date of purchase, how the premiums are paid, and if it is paid in full. Many people have paid-up life insurance policies that their family doesn’t know about. And about 5% of policies that mature (meaning someone has died) go unclaimed. It is important to share this information with your family.

Bank accounts — Include the name of the bank, address, account type, account number. List every account number. If you use online banking, note that information and include usernames and passwords.

Deposit boxes — Again, write down the bank name and address, the box number, contents of the box, access information, etc. If there is a key or several keys, tell them where to find that information, too.

Retirement accounts — Write down the name of the financial institution, the name of the account holder, and account num-bers. If you have them at multiple institutions, create a list of those.

House — This part of the asset list includes deed or mortgage information, purchase date and price, improvements after purchase, warranties, tax information, and dates paid for all homes (including vacation homes or timeshares). Also include furniture and appliances, valuable paintings, jewelry, etc.

Car(s) — Make, model, and VIN number of each vehicle owned. Also include the lien holder, repair history, payments, online account access, etc.

Anything else you own — Boats, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, equipment, tools, and business interests.

Receivables — If you have loaned money on property, this is great information to include. List the details of the loan and your wishes regarding repayment. In other words, do you expect your estate to receive the repayment, or do you wish to forgive the debt upon your death?

Passwords — We’ve alluded to this several times already. Create a list of passwords and login information for all online ac-counts, whether you use them a lot or not. You never know if a family member might need access.

Where you hide money — One of our clients was cleaning out her mother’s freezer and was getting ready to throw out what she thought was meat wrapped in aluminum foil when she realized it was actually cash. A trust company we know was get-ting a house ready for sale when a dog dug up a coffee can full of $1,000. More coffee cans resurfaced after that. It’s a lot easier to share this information with loved ones on an asset list rather than hoping they come across it.

What happens if I don’t have an asset list?

We encourage our clients to have an asset list that shows as much information as possible. We also encourage them to keep that list safe and secure in a designated spot, only sharing that information with people who need to know it is there. If you do not have an asset list, you are leaving way too much to chance. Your family may not know about important assets, Goodwill or whoever buys your home will end up with money not intended for them, etc.

Yes, it takes effort to make an asset list. If you feel the job is too overwhelming, ask for help from the people you have chosen to look over your estate after you are gone. Either way, we can’t stress enough how important this asset list is.

Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!

Having a competent estate planner in your corner will help you and your family navigate the often overwhelming waters that come with protecting everything you own and everyone you love. That’s our job, and we’d like to think we do it better than anyone else. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure you and your family are taken care of in the best way possible.

Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.

Thanks for reading!

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