Leaving your family to sort through all of your papers after your death or following an emergency is often very time consuming and extremely frustrating. There is also a good chance that they will not locate an insurance policy, bank account or other assets that you had not used in years. This can result in the unclaimed assets winding up as possessions of the State of Michigan rather than your family. In fact, Michigan has recently reduced its dormancy period for unclaimed property to only three years on most assets. Currently the Michigan Department of Treasury has millions of dollars in lost or forgotten assets from dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, stock certificates, and valuables left in safe deposit boxes. (You can search for unclaimed assets at www.michigan.gov/treasury)
A comprehensive folder of documents your family can access in case of an emergency is highly recommended. This will help loved ones avoid scrambling to organize a mass of papers and make it less likely your assets will escheat to the state. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should keep everything. Far too many families are left sorting through reams of bank statements, cancelled checks, utility bill, etc., from decades ago. Within the comprehensive folder, your loved ones should be able to locate your current:
- Original will or revocable trust.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances.
- Authorization to release health care info.
- Deeds for all real estate and burial plots.
- Mortgage, loan, or credit card documentation.
- Last three years of income tax returns.
- Vehicle titles.
- Stock certificates and savings bonds.
- Bank accounts, CDs and brokerage accounts.
- Safe depoiset box information.
- Retirement accounts (IRAs, 401K, annuities, etc.).
- Life insurance policies (including employer provided policies).
- Pension information.
- Marriage license(s).
- Divorce judgment(s).
- Any other important papers.
While organizing such a folder of important documents will require some effort, the benefits to your family are enormous. No longer will they need to spend days (or weeks) performing their own detective work trying to determine what you own. Also, you will have the peace of mind knowing that your affairs will be less burdensome on your loved ones after your death. After all, how do you want your children to remember what you left behind?