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How to get your estate planning file in order

This folder will help your family be prepared for any eventuality.

An estate planning file is a repository of all the information and documentation required by your spouse or loved ones to take control of your affairs in the event of medical emergency or death. Use your lockdown time effectively by compiling or updating your estate planning folder so that your family is prepared for any eventuality.

Here’s what your estate planning file should include:

Personal information

Beyond the obvious information such as name, surname, maiden name and contact details, be sure to include important information such as your tax number, your marital regime, the location of your will, and who you have nominated as the executor to your estate. It is also wise to include the contact details of your spouse, next of kin and children.

Security information

Be sure to make the lives of your loved ones easier by including all information on household security including the passwords or codes to any safes, the home alarm code and password, your armed response company details, safety deposit box numbers, and the location of post box keys.

Contact information

Preparing a list of all the important people and contact details in your life will make things much easier for your loved ones. Naturally, this would include your doctor or healthcare specialist, attorney, accountant and financial advisor. You may want to include your psychologist or psychiatrist, private banker, bookkeeper and HR manager.

Medical information

Other than including your medical aid number and plan option, consider including any emergency pre-authorisation numbers, your gap cover number, blood type, and if you are an organ donor. If you have signed a living will be sure to keep a copy of it in your estate planning file and let your loved ones know in advance of its existence. Provide details of any chronic ailments or medical conditions, allergies or any other information that a healthcare professional would need to know about in an emergency.

Bank account information

Make a list of all your bank accounts and credit cards, together with their account numbers, branch codes, the correct name of the account holder, and type of account. Be sure to list the correct usernames, passwords and login credentials for each account so that, in your absence, your loved ones can log in without any problems.

Investments

Although your financial advisor should be able to extract a list of all your policies and investments, it will make life easier for your loved ones if you keep a list of them in a file, especially if you have old policies or offshore investments. Providing a policy or reference number for each policy will be useful. In the list, include any discretionary investments, annuities, and provident, pension or preservation funds. It is important to remember that, although you may have nominated beneficiaries on your retirement fund, it is the trustees of your fund who are responsible for determining who your dependants are and who will receive the benefits, and that your beneficiary nomination will be used as a guide.

Insurance

Make a list of any long-term insurance policies that you have in place and check that your beneficiaries are correctly nominated. It will help your loved ones if you include your latest policy schedule in your estate planning file. In the event of your death, the proceeds of your life policy will pay out directly to your nominated beneficiaries. Remember, if you have not nominated beneficiaries on your life policy, the proceeds of your policy will pay directly into your estate and will be subject to the winding-up process. This may result in your loved ones not having access to much-needed funds in the months following your death, so please check your beneficiary nominations and update where necessary.

Accounts, licenses and subscriptions

Make a list of all your retail accounts, licenses and subscriptions together with the relevant account numbers, usernames and passwords. Be sure to include shop accounts (such as Foschini or Woolworths), online shopping accounts (such as Superbalist or Takealot), entertainment accounts (for example, Netflix or DStv), internet service providers, fibre providers, online gaming accounts, share trading accounts and online subscriptions.

Funeral and burial arrangements

In your estate planning file, you can include instructions pertaining to your burial or funeral. This can be in the form of guidance to your loved ones as to whether you wish to be buried or cremated, where you would like your ashes spread, how you would like the ceremony to proceed, what hymns you would like sung, flower arrangements, eulogies and so forth.

Your will

Ensure that the original copy of your will is in safe-keeping and that a copy of it is kept in your estate planning file. Think twice about storing your original will in the bank. On your death, your bank accounts will be frozen by the bank and they may refuse to release the will without the executor’s permission, creating unnecessary delays in winding up your estates. Check through your will and make sure that the witnesses to your will are not named as beneficiaries anywhere in the document. If you have beneficiaries in your will who reside overseas, it is advisable to keep copies of their ID documents on hand to avoid delay in the winding-up process. If you have foreign assets, you may need to have a separate will drafted for these, so be sure to get advice on this.

Digital will

A ‘digital will’ is an excellent way of collating all your online accounts and platforms, together with login and access details, and appointing one person as your ‘digital executor’ in the event of your death. When preparing your digital will, remember to make a list of all your tablets, computers and devices together with their access details. It is also important to include all your registered email addresses, passwords and security information. Further, make a list of all your social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest with a list of your usernames, linked email addresses and login details, together with instructions as to how you would prefer these accounts to be managed if you are no longer around.

Supporting documentation

Make copies of your all documentation that would be required for the efficient winding up of your estate. This will include the obvious documentation such as ID, passport, birth certificate and marriage certificate. If you have been divorced, you will need a copy of your divorce order and any maintenance agreement, as well as your marriage certificate from any previous marriage. Other important documents include your Sars tax reference, gun licenses, title deeds, trust deeds, jewellery valuation certificates, contracts of lease, and personal loan agreements.

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