Make it easier for your clients to organize important documents by presenting them with an estate planning binder and giving them tips on caring for it.
Sixty percent of Americans die without a will or any form of estate planning. This leaves their families with the tremendous burden of sorting out their wishes, finances, and estates.
The 40 percent of Americans who do invest in estate planning often assume that their efforts will spare their families such strain. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. When families can't find or can't access estate planning documents, they face the same struggles as families left with no documents at all.
This is where the humble but critically important estate planning binder comes in. Keep reading now to learn why providing your clients with estate planning binders is a must and how to get the most out of them.
Who Needs an Estate Planning Organizer Binder?
None of the documents that you help clients create will do them any good if their families or estate executors cannot find, access, and identify them when needed. Planning binders:
- Are distinctive and identifiable
- Collect all your clients' vital documents in one place
- Protect those documents
- Make the right documents quick and easy to find
Having the right information on hand at the right time saves families time and spares them stress during one of the most trying times of their lives. As such, every attorney who assists clients with estate planning should provide estate planning binders to every client they help with the planning process.
Benefits of Providing Your Clients With an Estate Planning Binder
Providing your clients with estate planning binders is as beneficial to you as it is to them. While they have many benefits, the top three that tend to mean the most to both attorneys and clients are that binders:
- Showcase your work
- Are convenient
- Are the most efficient way to handle estate documents
Binders Showcase Your Work
Estate planning can be time-consuming and emotionally draining for clients. While they inevitably experience peace of mind in the end, there can also be a sense that they have very little to show for their work with you aside from a pile of papers.
A well-organized binder transforms that "pile of paper" into a masterpiece. It gives visual weight to your work and increases clients' sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Binders Are Convenient
Binders are convenient for you, your staff, and your clients. Estate planning binder divider tabs can double as a check-list of sorts.
They help you walk your clients through what they should expect from the planning process and the documents involved. They help your clients track their progress and give them a sense of achievement as each new section is filled.
When it is time to periodically review your clients' documents, having them coordinated into a binder makes it easy to see and address everything all at once.
Binders Are Efficient
If your clients' families cannot find or identify their documents when they die or become incapacitated, they may turn to you for help. Tracking down and delivering copies of individual documents can be time-consuming for your office and stressful or confusing for families.
Having everything clearly marked in a single binder gives everyone access when they need it.
Hard Copy vs Digital
In this day and age, keeping hard copies of files can feel anachronistic. But there are many advantages to giving your clients binders with paper documents alongside or instead of digital files.
First, there is the question of safety. Binders can be secured in safes or safe deposit boxes, ensuring that they are not lost, damaged, or tampered with.
Second, binders can be stored alongside other important items such as:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage and divorce certificates
- Financial documents
- Heirloom jewelry or other personal valuables
Keeping all of these items together in a safe or safe deposit box enables families or estate managers to access everything they need all at once should a person die. This can be an invaluable time and energy saver when loved ones are already stretched thin.
Third, having hard copies prevents families from struggling with:
- Incompatible hardware or software
- Printers and printing costs
- Notaries and other necessary verification steps
While copies may be necessary at some point, a binder ensures that families have the documents they need at their fingertips when they need them.
What Should Be Included in an Estate Planning Binder?
What should an estate planning binder include? While some clients may require more documents than others, the standard contents of an estate planning binder include:
- Health insurance information
- Medical records
- Contact information for the client's insurance agents or providers
- Financial information, including investments, recurring bills, and tax records
- A log of accounts and passwords
On the more personal side, binders may also include:
- A letter from the client to their friends and family in the event of their death
- Information on the care and guardianship of their pets
- A list of people that should be notified if something happens to the client, including their contact information
Critical Estate Planning Binder Tips
Here are the experts' top tips for putting together binders that keep your clients organized.
- Use estate planning binder tabs to make the binders easy to navigate
- Include a reminder sheet so that your client will know when it is time to review and update their documents
- Advise your client of the importance of storing the binder somewhere safe
- Advise your client of the importance of making sure the correct people know where the binder is and can access it in an emergency
- Consider making a second copy of the binder for clients' regular reference and use so that the original copies of their documents can be stored in a secure location
These simple strategies will help you and your clients get the most out of all your hard work in the estate planning process.
Set Yourself up Right
Having the right tools makes any job faster and easier. It also produces a more professional end result