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Questions: wills and planning for heirs
Old 05-12-2016, 05:56 PM   #1
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Questions: wills and planning for heirs

I have two questions related to wills and planning for heirs
When you die,
(1) How do your heirs know where you had all your money invested? Can an executor do a search by social security number or do you need to have financial institution names/accounts documented somewhere for their access?
(2) Is the will public record to your heirs? If you decided to give one family member more than another, will the other be able to find out or is that private information?
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Old 05-12-2016, 06:05 PM   #2
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I have an "in case of death" file for my husband to find the assets. If he's dead - then I'll give my sister (or kids if their old enough) a copy of this file.

When my dad died we had access to his files - and used that as a starting point. We also contacted the company he retired from - just in case there was any lingering 401k (there wasn't) - but found out they still had a small insurance policy on him. That was a pleasant surprise.

When my brother died - my sister had taken over his finances (POA) so she had a good idea where the money and debts were and was able to do her job as trustee.
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Old 05-12-2016, 06:06 PM   #3
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1) Would not count on search by SSN. If I had to do it as an executor, I'd look at tax returns kept by decedent.... Best practice, by far, is to have an account list that is accessible to heirs/executor. [My wife & her sibs have worked on organizing this with their folks recently and already know where everything is, in addition to the list.

2) Public record once it is filed in probate (who knows, there might be some state that is an exception?). But you're dead already!

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I don't work in this area, but reasonably confident in these answers.
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Old 05-12-2016, 07:40 PM   #4
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My parents and aunts and uncles were confronted with this when an uncle died single with no kids. It was finding old tax returns, being sure a current address was maintained, and watching for 1099s in jan that did the trick. Of course once an executor is appointed the executor could if needed get copies of back returns from the IRS. In addition watch for credit card bills to get account numbers to cancel them.
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Old 05-12-2016, 08:00 PM   #5
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Usually your will, or at least where things go is made public. So they could see it with a little effort.
I would not make your executor have a treasure hunt for your assets. How will this person know where to find your will? If they can't find your will, the state will determine where your assets go and it will likely extend probate time and cost.

You can take much of this out of probate and the public eye by using a trust or just setting up beneficiaries or tod on your accounts.
Writing a will that never gets found is worthless.
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Old 05-12-2016, 08:16 PM   #6
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No will, have TOD / POD on all accounts & I told my son that I'm with Schwab & USAA. Guess I should forward him a copy of the house title (in trust)

For those in California, are you putting your house in s traditional trust or utilizing the new TOD rules effective January 2016? Pros & Cons?
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Old 05-12-2016, 08:37 PM   #7
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My father did a very useful letter to his kids that detailed where their accounts were held, where he kept various records, useful information regarding the house including key service providers, and even details about where the deed for the cemetery plot was located. He even included a few tips that would be helpful about what to do with some of his investments, as well as contact numbers for the benefits administrator at his work.

That letter proved extremely useful after he passed, and it's also a nice reminder of how he was always looking out for us.
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Old 05-12-2016, 08:47 PM   #8
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I have an file icon on my desktop called "My Stuff" In that folder is all the data either in Word or Excel. All the person has to do is click on it. I also have a hard copy in our files.
The investment list has all the firms, account numbers, addresses and phone numbers listed.
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Old 05-13-2016, 05:40 AM   #9
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In a binder I have an instruction letter, and paper copy of one statement for each account. When I think of something that would be useful to know, I include it in the binder.

Data is also in digital form.
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Old 05-13-2016, 06:20 AM   #10
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Investment firms and banks are required to send statements on accounts very often, so the deceased's incoming mail should point to where accounts are. I keep all of my and my wife's mutual funds and ETF's in one investment firm for simplicity's sake, and they're all linked together on one statement.

And has been mentioned, it's always best to list where all assets are and note any instructions the beneficiaries should need to know. Money makes some people do foolish things--especially when cashing out assets at the wrong time.

Wills are not public record unless they're probated. And if there's a surviving spouse, going thru the probate process is not required if all assets are rolling over to them. The kids most often get their inheritances after the last parent dies--and after any taxes are paid on the estate.

And when the last living family member dies (in most states), going thru probate is not required if there's no real estate or hard assets owned. Probate is where the executor is given the authority by the judge to sign for the transfer of assets. Life insurance and 401K's are not included in the estate, as they have beneficiaries noted.
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Old 05-13-2016, 06:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bamaman View Post
Investment firms and banks are required to send statements on accounts very often, so the deceased's incoming mail should point to where accounts are. I keep all of my and my wife's mutual funds and ETF's in one investment firm for simplicity's sake, and they're all linked together on one statement.
Of course they are all pushing for electronic statements and notifications. Better make sure your heirs can access your email.
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Old 05-13-2016, 06:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl E Retyre View Post
I have two questions related to wills and planning for heirs
When you die,
(1) How do your heirs know where you had all your money invested? Can an executor do a search by social security number or do you need to have financial institution names/accounts documented somewhere for their access?
The only way they will know for certain is if you give them, or someone, a list identifying all your assets and where each is located.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl E Retyre View Post
(2) Is the will public record to your heirs? If you decided to give one family member more than another, will the other be able to find out or is that private information?
Public record, so everyone will know.
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Old 05-13-2016, 09:03 AM   #13
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I have a list in my lockbox with all of my account info: investment accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, any other loans, all insurance, employment record, HOA contact, a pointer to my tax files, computer password, and a note that I make quarterly estimated tax payments. My son knows where it is. I try to remember to update it if I open a new account, and check it every year.

My taxable account has a transfer on death so it will skip probate. I'm pretty sure this is not public record so you could give whoever whatever you want and maybe others won't find out, but I'm not sure how that is initiated. Does the executor contact Vanguard, or do they get a death notice, or what? I've got a copy of mine in my lock box so I assume everyone will find out but I'm not playing favorites.

I have a separate sheet in my lock box that explains the TOD, any tax implications (such as stepped up basis on investments, how to best distribute the IRAs), and recommendations for basic investing. Everything outside the TOD goes to my son so I have notes on what he might want to do with the house and what might have value that is not obvious. Also, that he doesn't have to feel obliged to keep things that have sentimental value to me, like my marathon medals or any other collectibles. But he is obligated to take my cats or find a good home.

Even with a TOD I have a will for everything not covered by it. Why make anyone go through the hassle to figure out what to do with your stuff even if there isn't much left outside what's covered by the TOD?
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Old 05-13-2016, 09:25 AM   #14
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A red folder in my safe, prominently displayed, that says "open me now".
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Old 05-13-2016, 10:11 AM   #15
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easy...
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Old 05-13-2016, 10:13 AM   #16
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easy...


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Old 05-13-2016, 10:13 AM   #17
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easy...
seriously though.... folder marked 'in case of death' in safe... also includes printout of Password Keeper passwords to all the financial accounts managed online.

When my brother and FIL passed, each time we went through all of the books on the bookshelf looking for cash that they might have stashed.. found several thousand dollars hidden in the return air vent at my FIL's house... they were preppers before prepping became fashionable
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Old 05-13-2016, 10:23 AM   #18
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In the process of getting my affairs in order so this thread is very relevant to me.
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Old 05-13-2016, 10:52 AM   #19
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I haven't started on this, but I think it will be useful. Do a google search for 'Big Book of Everything' by Erik Dewey and you'll find the free download. Here's a screenshot of the table of contents. I think it might have been updated since this version.

This forum was probably the original source for finding this.. I can't recall, but if someone on the forum posted the original info, many thanks...
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Old 05-16-2016, 05:17 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl E Retyre View Post
I have two questions related to wills and planning for heirs
When you die,
(1) How do your heirs know where you had all your money invested? Can an executor do a search by social security number or do you need to have financial institution names/accounts documented somewhere for their access?
(2) Is the will public record to your heirs? If you decided to give one family member more than another, will the other be able to find out or is that private information?
we put together a folder with all instructions and accounts which we update yearly and have it in the house .

we gave each kid an envelope with instructions of where the folder is in the house and where the wills and trusts are .

the first thing the kids said to each other is this is so cool , it is like a treasure hunt
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