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ESTATE PLANNING STEP 4: DOCUMENT YOUR PLANS




Remember the basic documents you need in your estate plan:

1.     A Will

2.     Advance Directive (Also called a Living Will)

3.     Durable Financial Power of Attorney (DFPOA)

We recommend you have an additional document for your Pets

4          A Pet Life Care Agreement or Pet Life Care Trust Agreement

 

1.    Do It Yourself (DIY)?

Yes, you can do it yourself and still do it with a lawyer!  We partner with Freewill.com which is a nonprofit organization that provides free estate planning documents. Yes, they are totally free, no tricks. They provide you with the first 3 documents above; a will, advance directive and DFPOA.  Perpetual Care provides you with the additional pet care documents on our website at www.perpetualcare.org/estate-planning.

 

2.    File your plan with your lawyer

 If you work with a local attorney they will retain a copy of your estate plan documents, but there are some documents that an attorney may not keep on file and are not legally required. 

 

A pet life care agreement between you and your designated caregivers, is not legally required as part of an estate. It also may not make sense to only include it in your estate documents since that agreement can take effect prior to you actually passing away.


1.    Pet Life Care Agreement vs Pet Life Care Trust

a.     Pet Life Care Agreement: A pet life care agreement is a simple agreement between you as the pet owner with the primary and secondary caregivers who you wish to designate as the caregivers for your pets. Because a will only takes effect when you pass away, this agreement is important to protect your pets in the event that you can no longer care for them but you have not passed away. 

 

Perpetual Care provides a template of a pet life care agreement on our website at www.perpetualcare.org/estate-planning.  You can download the template and modify it for your own pets’ information.  We suggest you have your attorney review and modify it as well since laws vary by state, then sign and notarize it along with your designated caregivers.

 

b.     Pet Life Care Trust:  The pet life care trust is an agreement with your primary and secondary caregivers that includes funds reserved for the care of your pets in a trust fund.  The trust fund can be set up with your bank.  Because a will only takes effect when you pass away, this agreement is important to protect your pets in the event that you can no longer care for them but you have not passed away. 

 

 Perpetual Care provides you with a pet life care trust agreement template that can be used to modify for your pets’ information. Visit our website at www.perpetualcare.org/estate-planning for the pet trust template.  Again, you will want to have it reviewed by your attorney, signed by all parties, notarized and included in your estate planning documents.

 

2.    Document File Storage

Store all your important documents safely for someone to find and carry out your plans.

a.     Paper files

1.     A Fire Proof Home Security Box

Keep a copy of all your important documents in a fire proof security box at home.  Include your Pet Life Care Agreement in your document storage.


1.     Safe Deposit Box

You may also want to consider storing copies of important documents in a safe deposit box.  If you do, be sure to let your emergency contact know and provide them with a key.




 

a.     Online/cloud document storage

If you and your family members or other emergency contacts are tech knowledgeable, there are some simple data storage options that allow you to share documents online with other people who you trust to carry out your wishes.  Here are a few to consider, from no cost options to paid data storage providers.

1.     Google Docs/One Drive/Box/Dropbox

Each of these shared data systems allows you to store all of your legal documents and share them with your key people (see #2 for suggested people).  They are not the most secure systems but they are free.

2.     Estate Document Storage Websites

a.     Estate Map (www.estatemap.com). Joe Henderson, a Minneapolis estate lawyer, knows from experience that people are “leaving all sorts of assets on the table” after they die. Bank accounts and property in safe deposit boxes often go unclaimed because heirs don’t know about them.  Henderson, who created Estate Map in 2014, says many people don’t think about disability or who will get access to their information when they’re incapacitated. Rather, people often keep critical documents “in a desk drawer, hoping the right person finds it at the right time,” he says.  His Web site divides the data into three categories: information on assets, the estate, and personal health and life. Estate Map costs $96 the first year and $24 a year to renew.

b.     Everplans (www.everplans.com). Co-founder Abby Schneiderman says she doesn’t think of the site as a “platform before you die, but a place to organize all details of your life when you are living.” That could include informing people where to find an extra set of keys.  You first take a short, personal assessment, including your marital status, ages of children, and whether you have a will and health care directives. Then you receive customized recommendations on what to tackle first. Everplans provides links to sites where you can download legal and health forms from your state.

 

There’s space to write your own obituary and to upload a photo for your obit. And you can leave a letter to your family or instructions about possessions.

 

Launched in March 2014, the site offers both a free version and a premium version for $75 a year. With the free model, you can’t upload documents but you can read 2,000 articles on estate and end-of-life planning. A premium user gets access to live chat support.

c.      The Torch (www.thetorch.com). Those skittish about putting sensitive documents online can use The Torch. This site doesn’t ask for personal information, such as account numbers. Instead, it allows at least two people you’ve designated to know what documents you have and where to find them.

Lenore Vassil, a former corporate technology executive, founded the company in 2012. In her research, Vassil learned that people are often reluctant to put a lot of personal information online. “My sister doesn’t need to see a copy of my will, she just needs to know I have it,” she says.

The Pro or Lifetime version ($24 a year, or a one-time charge of $144) allows you to upload the location of your Social Security card, birth certificate, safe deposit box and other information. You can create virtual notebooks on a number of topics, including what a loved one will need to know about your car, real estate, pet and people in your life.

A free version provides basic information, such as whether you have a retirement account or insurance. If you don’t have these assets, your family won’t go scrambling to find them.



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