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Taking Inventory of Your Assets

Estate Planners | Monday, November 22nd, 2010

When making out a last will and testament, inventorying your assets is unavoidable.  Using a form to account for what you have is certainly the easiest approach, but including all of your assets in your will is necessary to make sure that everything that you own is accounted for and distributed according to your wishes.  The easiest way to take an inventory of your assets is to group your assets together.  This allows you to allocate provisions of your will that deal with distributing the assets.  The most common assets are listed below, although this is certainly not an all-inclusive list:

  • bank accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit
  • business interests
  • digital assets, like websites or domains
  • patents, royalties, copyrights and other intellectual properties
  • personal belongings like artwork, jewelry and furnishings
  • real estate, including your primary residence
  • retirement accounts
  • stocks and brokerage accounts

Who Do You Want Handling Your Affairs?

Along with inventorying your assets, you will also need to select an executor or executrix (sometimes called a trustee) to execute the terms of your last will and testament and represent the estate in probate court.  The executor will be responsible for administering the estate and getting the process of probate started, manage your assets during probate, and handle court-supervised probate tasks, like transferring property to your beneficiaries and paying your final debts.

The executor is a fiduciary who acts in good faith to handle your final affairs.  The executor should be a trustworthy and honest person who is capable of fulfilling the duties required of him or her.  It is always wise to discuss the appointment of an executor with your family, and to make sure that the person is willing to act in this capacity when you pass away.  It is convenient to choose an executor who lives in your state in order to make it simpler to attend court and take care of necessary paperwork.  The surviving spouse is an obvious choice.  Other choices for executor are grown children or close relatives.  In some instances, people choose to make an attorney their executor in order to avoid conflict among their survivors.  Make sure that your executor knows that you have a will and where it is located.

Discussing Your Wishes with Your Loved Ones

While you do not have to discuss your will with anyone, it is often wiser (and easier on the emotions of your family later on) that you discuss your will with your family.  There are several reasons for this.  Obviously, it is pleasurable to let people know what they will inherit upon your passing.  Discussing your wishes can also clear up confusion and reduce tension after your death.  Inversely, there may be reasons that you want the contents of your will to remain undisclosed until you pass. Whether to discuss your wishes with loved ones or not is a decision that only you can make, and should be based on your particular situation and your level of comfort in having the discussion.

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