T&E TALK: A Fiduciary Roadmap

Berdon LLP
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Berdon LLP

If you are like most people, your life is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of puzzle pieces. If you sometimes find it challenging to manage your own affairs just imagine how difficult it would be for your executor, guardian, or attorney-in-fact to do so. These “fiduciary” roles are often assigned to family members or close friends who have little or no information about your assets, your testamentary plan or the legal documents you have in place. The kindest and most responsible thing you can do for your loved ones is to leave them “a fiduciary roadmap” to help them find those puzzle pieces.  

What is a Fiduciary Roadmap?

In order for your guardian or attorney-in-fact to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated, or for your executor to administer your estate upon your death, they will need knowledge of your assets and the ability to access certain legal documents. A fiduciary roadmap is something you leave your fiduciaries to help them do this. Because this is a highly personal process, the roadmap can take many forms and be provided in many different formats. To prepare a fiduciary roadmap, you will first need to get organized.

Organize your Assets.

If you don’t already have a personal net worth statement, start by making a list of your assets. Include not only financial assets and business interests, but also residences, valuable tangible personal property (such as antiques, jewelry, fine art, or other collectibles) and life insurance.

  • For each financial account, list the name of the financial institution, the account number, your username and password for online access, and the name and contact information of your banker or representative at the financial institution.
  • For business interests, provide the names and contact information for any co-owners, managers, or other contact person at the company.
  • For residences, provide a description of the residence with its location and the name and contact information of any caretaker.  
  • For tangible property, provide a description of each item and its location. If items, such as jewelry, are in a safe or safe deposit box, provide the combination, or the name and location of the bank where the box is rented, as well as the location of the key.
  • For life insurance, list the name of the insurance company, the policy number, the named beneficiary and the name and contact information for your insurance broker.

Don’t forget about your digital assets. If you want your fiduciary to gain access to your phone or computer, or to log into your email or other online accounts, you will need to list each of these devices and accounts and provide usernames and passwords.

Organize your Legal Documents.

Next, organize key legal documents. Upon your death or incapacity, your fiduciaries will need access to certain documents to administer your estate or manage your financial affairs. Your roadmap should either give your fiduciaries information as to the location of these documents or provide them with copies of the documents. Copies can be provided in “old school” hard copy format or in digital format. If digital, provide any passwords protecting the information and consider backing it up. You should also inform your fiduciaries of the location of each original of these documents and how they may gain access. If the documents are in a locked box or file cabinet, don’t forget to list the location of the keys. Consider organizing the following documents as part of your roadmap:  

  • Power of attorney
  • Health care proxy and HIPAA release
  • Living Will
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Revocable Trust
  • Any Trust agreement you created or which names you as a beneficiary
  • Life insurance policies with beneficiary designations
  • Beneficiary designations for retirement plans
  • Personal property insurance for valuable tangible property
  • Deeds to residences (or cooperative corporation stock certificates and lease)
  • Mortgages
  • Governing or other documents relating to your business interests

While creating a fiduciary roadmap may seem like a daunting process, remember that it is one of the most loving things you can do for your family members. It will make their life infinitely easier during a difficult time, when they are dealing with your incapacity or death.   Think of it as a love letter to them.

 

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