Will documents are among some of the most important personal documents. Development of an organized system is essential to keep them safe,
Your client just died. His widow calls you and says, "I can't find any of Jim's will documents. Do you have a copy?" Do you want to put this grieving widow on hold for forty minutes while you rustle through your unorganized desk? Or do you want to be able to say, "Don't worry, I've got them right here."
Design an intelligent filing system with Exhibit Indexes to ensure that all will documents and other important client files are at your fingertips when you need them.
How to Design a File System
Organizing legal documents is essential for legal businesses and personal use. Setting up for success requires the right materials. Whether using filing dividers and tabs or envelopes to separate the most important documents, there should be enough materials to contain each section of the documents neatly and provide easy access.
Sorting and organizing documents is structured like a hierarchy. Each new section should have a main theme and then contain all related documents beneath it.
You can easily construct a hierarchical system. Use dividers, tabs, and envelopes in a filing drawer or system. Each large divider will make a new section. Within that, place dividers with labeled tabs that stick out of the paperwork or collated dividers that come numbered or lettered to divided up each subsection.
Within the subsections, include folders or envelopes to sort like documents together. Use folders for quick overhead browsing. Envelopes work to keep small or fragile documents protected.
Durable, fireproof filing cabinets give you the best chance of protecting the documents long-term.
What Paperwork Makes Up Will Documents?
To assist your clients or self in compiling the essential documents for a will, review the following sections. Then include all necessary sections in will legal documents.
Make it possible for executors and beneficiaries to file on behalf of the deceased by having social security information and birth certificates available.
Instructions for Distributions
This is what is generally thought of as a "will." This names beneficiaries designates inheritances, and leave clear instructions for the dissolution of the estate. Keeping these up to date with clear contact information for beneficiaries can make the job of executing much simpler for the executor.
Last Year's Tax Return
The previous year's tax return can be a great place for executors to start as it will likely show an overview of the whole financial picture. It will also help them pay the taxes for the year the deceased passes as final taxes must be paid out of the estate.
Real Estate Assets
Include any homeownership information, deeds, home insurance information, contact information for any property management in extraneous rental properties, and mortgage information.
It should include information on any assets held, as well as the name of all financial advisors.
Retirement, Savings, and Checking Accounts
Leave the names, recent statements, log-in information, and contact information for each retirement, savings, and checking account. These will need to be included in the assessment of estate and distributed as directed.
List of Any Debts
That includes information like a car note, mortgage, back taxes, any accounts in collections, etc. Payments to these funds come out of the estate first, so they must be clearly labeled and included in the will documents.
Living Will Document
A living will document, or advance healthcare directive is an essential document to include with will legal documents.
All Online Accounts and Their Log-in Information
It is an obvious choice to include usernames and passwords for joint financial accounts. There's no harm in keeping an updated list of more general account login information cataloged with will documents. That will allow survivors to swap things like streaming accounts or electric bills into their own names.
To make printed will documents feel official and organized, custom printed will supplies are available. These can assist in the design and organization of the will.
What Not to Include?
A great first step to getting documents organized is getting rid of anything unnecessary.
For instance, recommendations state that you only keep three years of tax returns. Including taxes, with will legal documents can help executors and legal counsel who are working with the estate. However, keep only those that will be relevant to the execution of the estate - likely just the last three years' worth.
To maintain clarity on desires and requirements, keep only the most recent copy of a will in the file system. Updated wills supersede previous copies. Keeping old copies will only lead to confusion.
Should Individuals Keep Print Copies of Their Will, Too?
It is important to advise clients to keep copies of their own wills as well. Family members can easily access printed will documents promptly. Keep them organized and up to date to provide accurate information at critical moments.
Access to a living will document can be extremely important for end-of-life and funeral information. As the advanced directive will dictate end-of-life care, the ability of a family member to be able to take this to the hospital to share with a doctor is very important.
Likewise, the documents of a will contain information that will be relevant and essential to the day-to-day life of survivors. Survivors may need to draw on joint accounts to pay for end of life care or funeral expenses and should be able to find this information easily.
The benefits of a well-organized copy of a will extend to both beneficiaries and owners. Knowing that you have taken care of your family and that any last wishes are clearly written, and accessible brings peace in times of turmoil.
It's Time To Get Organized
Getting organized may feel overwhelming at first, but developing a filling system will make the process achievable.
Check out the envelopes, dividers, and tabs available from Exhibit Indexes to get started on building the essential filing system for will documents today.