Developing an Estate Plan: Create a Master Directory

By: Stacey Nickens

I’ve always been a planner. When I homeschooled my children, I loved making their daily checklists and printing those checklists on pretty, bordered stationaries. I’m known for my love of calendars and flash cards, and I’ve never seen I list I didn’t like. However, even for me, estate planning can be a challenging task. Not only does it feel daunting, it can also feel sad. I don’t like to contemplate the end of life, much less plan for it.

However, if you break estate planning into separate tasks, it can be a much more manageable project. A few weeks ago, I walked you through selecting a trustee for your trust. Click here to review that step. This week, I’ll review creating and protecting a master directory of your assets and liabilities. A mastery directory will ensure that your loved ones are aware of your assets in the event of your death or incapacity. The document will also ensure they know about your debts and can respond to them accordingly. Additionally, an estate planning attorney often asks for a list of your liabilities and assets. Filling out a master directory will thus help you prepare for this meeting.

To create a master directory, begin by listing out your important contacts. Write down the names of and contact information for your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, financial advisor, banker, and any other key estate planning individuals. Next, detail your assets. Provide the account and login information for your brokerage accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and others. Finally, provide the account and login information for all of your loans and liabilities. You may also want to keep a record of other important passwords and usernames. You can record these passwords in a secure online program, such as LastPass, on a password-protected spreadsheet, or on a physical paper that you keep in a safe location.

Because the master directory will contain sensitive information, be careful about where and how you store the document. Consider printing it out and storing it in a locked location. If you store it on your computer, make sure the document is password-protected. Either way, tell a trusted individual where they can find the document and how they can access it. Telling your trustee about the document’s location would likely streamline the process. Additionally, make sure to review and update your master directory annually. This annual review will ensure your directory is up-to-date.

I have created a Master Directory template to help you kickstart the process. Simply click here to download ELM3’s Master Directory. You can use the provided template or use the template as a starting point to create your own document. As you’re working on your master directory, questions may arise. I encourage you to reach out for assistance in your estate planning process. I am always happy to help you and your loved ones prepare for the future.

Source: Morningstar