About this time last year, I wrote about my brother’s unexpected death, and becoming our family’s last-man standing and executor for his estate. You can find it in March’s issue, or online at Do this must do before you R.I.P. It was about making amends or peace with others, and might be worth reading again.
Aside of Jim’s life-long accumulation of a trove of machine shop tools, his estate wasn’t a biggie. Yet, it proved to have many little complications that protracted its closing. I share a few of the snafus to hopefully help you avoid a few of your own:
• Where are those titles? You already have ownership records of your real (land and building) property holdings plus legal documents of who would be your beneficiaries. Right?
But what about title documents on machinery, recreational equipment and vehicles you may have licenses for? Keep all them in one location! You or your beneficiaries must have them. The best place is a safety deposit box — not “somewhere in the desk or file cabinet.”
To close the deal on my brother’s property, we had to find the title for his double-wide mobile home. We couldn’t. The manufacturer was no longer in business, and the needed document that came with the home had long since disappeared. After spending money to research it (a goose chase), we ended up seeking a state court’s “title surrender” document.
• Who owns what with you? My brother had titles co-owned with his previously deceased wife, with his partner and with step-children. All these things legally “sort out” differently when they go to the courthouse to change title ownership.
• Update a ‘what’s where’ list. If you suddenly die or are incapacitated, your beneficiaries need to know where they can find all the “stuff” they’re going to need. Get this done today!
Financial advisers can provide forms for doing this. Cooperative Extension can point you to some. All kinds of resources can be downloaded from the internet. Just don’t store them on the web.
Doing a computer-generated list is best — and easiest to update. Then print them out and keep them in one designated place that at least one other person knows about.
What to put on that list? Everything financial — account numbers and locations for checking, savings, loans, insurance, investment holdings, your will and medical directive, etc. It’s going to be confusing and exhausting for those who have to pick up from where you leave off.
Time stretches with age. Generation Z-ers, or post-millennials, often don’t wear watches. For them, time may be whatever moment is on their smartphones. Millennials may frame time in terms of yesterday, now and tomorrow — a 24-hour window.
Gen X-ers may stretch that frame out to maybe a 5 or 10-year span. Baby boomers? They increasingly stretch frame times by decades. That gets them into trouble when planning the future.