COVID is forcing American families to confront end-of-life planning. There are numerous articles on the subject, but NPR published one during the summer of 2020 that made a recommendation that is often overlooked: creating an inventory. My wife, the list maker, established our first inventory 30 years ago when our first child was born. Over the years, that inventory was converted to an Excel spreadsheet so that it could be easily updated and shared. The need for a comprehensive inventory was driven home with us when my mother-in-law’s health began declining last year.
Genelle, my mother-in-law, is also a list maker. Unlike her daughter, Genelle has a disdain for computers, and prefers paper lists that are safeguarded in one of two safes. During a visit to discuss her estate plans, Genelle opened both safes to retrieve her various lists. My spouse has four siblings, and Genelle had broken matters down by the sibling who she thought was most familiar with that matter. When we went to discuss a matter with the assigned sibling, the most common response was ignorance. Genelle’s children were in the dark about the matters that constituted her estate. The various lists were difficult to read and, after further investigation, incomplete. Working as a group, my wife and her siblings began to work with their mother to put together the pieces of Genelle’s estate puzzle and create a comprehensive inventory.
My wife’s family is fortunate in that Genelle can still answer questions and provide information. She can also execute documents necessary to clarify title in her estate assets or to sell property that has become difficult to manage. As the NPR article suggests, it’s never too early to start work on an inventory. Be comprehensive in creating the inventory, providing hyperlinks to accounts. (User names and passwords should be kept on a separate document, to be provided to your financial power of attorney and estate executor.)