Trust, Plan, and Verify – Lessons on Estate planning


Trust, Plan, and Verify

By Sharon R. Majetich, MA in Reading & Literacy, MS in Information and Learning Technology.

Note – Ms. Majetich’s husband died suddenly without a will or any planning in place in 2017.  Her experiences have inspired her to share her information in the hope of helping others avoid a difficult experience. She is a middle school teacher and cross country/track coach.

Along with religion and politics, finances and death are often topics that people just don’t want to talk about.  Ignoring the possibility of one’s own mortality is not realistic.  It also doesn’t value or take into consideration those one leaves behind. I am no financial planner, nor am I an estate attorney, but I have experienced a lot in the last year as a result of my husband’s failing to plan for his own mortality.  Estate planning takes time, but is incredibly worth the time.  Additionally, it will provide emotional security and assistance to your family during an extremely difficult time.  Communicate with the people important in your life.  Trust that they will follow up as promised.  Plan for all possibilities.  Verify that your paperwork really is in order.
Planning – Yes, these things take time.  They are uncomfortable to talk about and involve paperwork, but nothing compared to what one will go through when a loved one dies without a will – Intestate.


Estate Planning – things to do Failing to Plan – things to do when dealing with an Intestate situation
Find an attorney, estate attorney, financial planner or accountant who understands you and/or your family’s needs.  
Consider a yearly review of documents and goals regarding estate and financial planning to allow for you or your family’s changing needs.
Keep a list of passwords (in a secure place) for often used websites, and make sure your loved ones know where to find it.
Keep a comprehensive list of key contacts, including estate attorney, CPA, insurance agent, financial planner, location of bank accounts, etc.
Annually, verify that your beneficiaries are listed correctly on IRAs and 401k’s (don’t forget to check this on old 401k’s as well).
Consult an estate attorney, even if you decide not to hire one.
Get multiple copies of the Death Certificate
Determine who potential beneficiaries are – prepare for potential conversations or disagreements regarding what people perceive as the deceased person’s wishes regarding the estate.
Court will need to appoint an administrator, (Personal Representative or Executor, depending upon the State) to begin any work on closing the estate.
Secure the Court issued Letters of Administration – needed before the Person Representative (PR) can reach out to institutions.
Medical Power of Attorney – Consider what you want if you are hospitalized.  Designate someone who is authorized to make medical decisions for you.   
HIPPA – Designate individuals who can access your medical records.
Living Will – Written directions for your medical wishes, including things such as  a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.
Will – Decide how do you want your property distributed.  If you have children, determine who is to be their guardian.
Financial Power of Attorney – Identify someone authorized to manage your legal and financial related affairs.
Trust – For a more complicated estate, the existence of a Trust helps avoid forcing an estate into court for probate.
Collect Pertinent Documents:
Insurance Policies – Health, Homeowners, Life, Disability, Auto, etc.
Real Estate and other Asset Inventory, such as cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.
Secure statements for:  Investment Accounts

Funds in IRA’s

Checking and savings accounts

Any 401K’s

Money market accounts

Stocks and investment accounts

Most recent mortgage statement
Two years tax returns
Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates
Notify the major three credit reporting agencies and request an up-to-date credit report.
Attempt to secure passwords to online accounts.
Notify Agencies & Institutions:

This is not complete list, but should help serve as a guide.  Also consider clubs, organizations and other aspects of your loved ones life.
Social Security Administration


Insurance Companies

Credit Card Companies

Post Office

Pension Providers

Utility Companies, especially Cell Providers

Creditors – the request for a final credit report will help identify any outstanding credit you may be unaware was open.
Clubs, Memberships, Subscriptions

Automated prescriptions

Magazines, Book-of the Month, etc.

Gym memberships

Big Box Store Memberships, such as Sam’s or Costco

Amazon Prime or similar online memberships

Automated deliveries, such as food, wine, etc.

Social clubs or volunteer organizations
Apply for Death Benefits due Survivors:

Social Security

Insurance policies

Car loans

Credit card agreements


Pension Funds


Military Service

Employment 401K’s – current and past employers
Pay Final Bills and Guard Against Financial Fraud

Even after you have paid all final bills, monitor your loved ones credit report for at least one year.
After Probate Court has Closed:

Complete Estate Taxes – submit to IRS

Complete the individual’s Federal and State taxes for the year deceased.