South Dakota Estate Planning - Getting Organized

In many marriages, one of the spouses is the “organizer” and overall detail person. If you are single again (whether following a divorce or death of a spouse) and especially if you were not the “organizer” when married, then you need to be now. 

First Steps

Getting and staying organized can be as simple as creating separate file folders to hold important information regarding your important people, property, and plans. You should then store these files in a safe, fireproof location and let your loved ones know where to find them. A good start would be to organize the following matters without delay and then update them as necessary.

Minor Children

Do you have minor children for whom you are the sole or primary parent? If something happens to you, would anyone know how to take care of the health care needs of your minor children? At a minimum, have you documented their medical insurance information, the contact information regarding their pediatricians, and any allergies or pre-existing health conditions they may have? In addition to creating this file, provide copies of this information to all relevant family members and others with a need to know.

Key People Lists

You probably have many important people in your life. You may have professional advisors who help you with everything from your health care, to insurance needs, to tax preparation, to financial planning and investing. If something happened to you, would those responsible for your care and estate know who these advisors are and how to contact them?

In addition to professional advisors, would your loved ones know how to contact your nearest and dearest family members and friends, if something happened to you? Making this list with names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses would save your loved ones considerable stress at the time of your death when final arrangements are being made.

Important Papers

Even though many of us would like to be “paperless,” it seems we are buried with important papers. Your papers may include documents related to your estate plan, business or employment, investments, real estate and mortgages, automobile titles, birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, divorce papers, investment records, tax records, real estate and mortgages and military discharge papers. Obviously, being able to access these papers will make your life easier now, let alone for those who will need them later.

Assets & Liabilities

Have you made a list of your assets and liabilities? This list should include each of the financial institutions, their addresses, their websites, the types of accounts held, the account identifiers, how titles are held and any beneficiary designations.

Virtual Assets

If you have any online financial, email, or social media accounts with unique web addresses, user names, and passwords, then you need to create a list and give your designated representative the ability to identify and access these accounts. Otherwise, these accounts will be shut down upon your death and access denied.

Last Wishes

Reduce to writing and share at least the basics concerning your funeral instructions. This includes whether you prefer cremation or burial.

Brooke Swier Schloss
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Family Law and Estate Planning attorney helping families across South Dakota plan and protect their loved ones