Have you considered what will happen if you met your demise on the way home from work this evening?
Would your family know where your Will is kept? Would they know where your assets are held? Or would there be chaos? You may know exactly where all those important documents are and between your accountants, insurance adviser, portfolio manager and lawyer, they each have some idea – but does your spouse or next of kin even know who they are?
According to David Knott of Private Client Trust, most people are methodical and precise in their business lives but often pretty haphazard with their personal affairs. “Documents of title and investment reports could be scattered anywhere in the study, the office, safety deposit boxes and all points in between.”
After death, your executor needs to take charge of all assets, investigate and settle all claims against the estate and give transfer of the residue of your estate, which could include fixed properties, vehicles and investments, to the rightful heirs in terms of your Will.
“Try to imagine the wasted time if the executor cannot easily ascertain where all these important details may be,” says Knott. “With many investors now also having funds abroad, the search for assets becomes more complex unless you have kept reasonable records.”
Knott provides some guidance on the kind of documentation your executor needs in the event of your death:
“Some of the personal documents your executor will need are your original last Will and Testament (if held by deceased), the original death certificate, original identity document and passport, original marriage certificate and original antenuptial (or other marriage) contracts.”
“With regards to you assets, your executor needs to have access to documentation such as original Title Deeds for any property, mortgages, lease agreements and proof of insurance,” says Knott. “Other documentation required is your cars, boats, trailers registration certificates and logbooks, original firearm licenses, recent bank statements for all accounts, original policy documents for any life assurance/ endowment/annuity policies held, unit trust statements, share portfolio statements, trust registration documents– this extensive list goes on to cover business interests, liabilities, and tax affairs – to name only a few.”
All of the required documentation and information needed to smoothly handle your affairs should be compiled in a sound Estate Plan.
“Estate Planning is the starting point to coordinating you retirement and is the process of anticipating and arranging, during your life, the management and disposal of you estate after your death. Ensuring efficient tax structures, investment vehicles etc.” explains Knott. “Estate Planning will help you to collate all the necessary information, putting your affairs in order in a step-by-step process, making it simple for you and your loved ones to know exactly where everything is kept. “
“By partnering with a company like Private Client Trust and making use of an Estate Planning specialist you can be sure that all your documents are centrally located and in order so that at your death your loved ones will not be searching for documents or be unsure of where important information is safely stored. The sooner your executor can confirm investments and settle taxes and other liabilities the sooner they can distribute to your heirs and allow them to gain finality and get on with their lives,” says Knott.