Help Your Estate Administration by Consolidating Your Estate
Ever have to move or downsize your possessions? Many people find it hard to go through a lifetime of belongings and decide what to keep and what to get rid of, and whether to gift items to specific individuals, donate them to charity, or simply throw them out. Now imagine if you are required to do this task for every single item in an estate, and the possessions are not even yours but rather belonged to a beloved member of your family who has passed on. This is often the task that falls on the executor or administrator of an estate, who is charged with the duty of consolidating an estate, selling off items and distributing the proceeds to people named in the will as heirs and beneficiaries. You can make this process easier for the executor and more likely to get done according to your wishes if you take steps now to consolidate or streamline your estate.
Make three piles
You might think it would be easier to let someone else part with your effects rather than doing it yourself, but this is not always so. Others may not know what is truly valuable or meaningful and may dispose of the wrong things or hang on to items you yourself would have let go. One approach is to make three piles – items to keep, items to give to people or charity, and what can simply be thrown away. For heirlooms and keepsakes, label them so people will know what they are and why they are important. Make notes about who those people are in those old family photos. If you have a great deal of pictures, consider converting them to a digital format. This way you can save space as well as time for your executor, and also be able to share multiple copies of important photographs without having to decide who should get what.
Consolidate your assets as well
In addition to distributing or disposing of physical items, your estate executor will also have to deal with all of your financial instruments, bank accounts and monetary assets. Do you have multiple retirement accounts from different employers at different financial institutions? Do you maintain investment accounts with different brokers? What about checking accounts, savings accounts and CDs? Your executor will have to track down all your assets, which can be complicated and time-consuming. Consider consolidating assets at one central location to make them easier to locate and access for you as well as your executor. Another option might be to put your assets into a revocable living trust. You can continue to manage and benefit from these assets during your lifetime, and after you are gone the money will pass to your beneficiaries outside of probate, saving your executor time, money and effort. Talk to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney about the best way to arrange your estate that will benefit you as well as your heirs.
In Carol Stream and Chicago, contact Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600 to discuss your assets and estate with a team of skilled and experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys.