What is in Your Inventory?
If you have already done your estate planning, you have taken a significant step toward protecting who you love and what you value, including yourself! You have also ensured your loved ones will know how to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated or die. However, simply having a will or a trust and related estate planning documents is often not enough. A detailed inventory of all your accounts and property is crucial for helping your loved ones manage your legal and financial affairs effectively.
Most estate planning attorneys have received calls from distressed children who knew that a deceased parent had a will or a trust, but had no idea what accounts, insurance policies, or items of real and personal property the parent actually owned. If an inventory was never prepared and shared with the parent’s attorney, the child likely had to spend countless hours meticulously combing through the parent’s file cabinets, drawers, tax returns, mail, and online accounts to identify the parent's assets.
Needless to say, this is not something anyone wants to happen. Even if you do not have a will or a trust in place, you do not need to wait to prepare an inventory of your property until you have created these legal documents. In fact, assembling an inventory can be an excellent first step when it comes to your estate planning. This preliminary effort will allow your attorney to immediately begin focusing on the creation of a will or a trust that takes into account each of your accounts and pieces of property and how they should be coordinated with your estate planning goals. If you take this step, your attorney is guaranteed to be impressed and grateful for your preparation.
How to Create an Inventory
Creating an inventory of your accounts and property does not need to be very complicated. It can be a simple word processing document or even a handwritten list. Many individuals create spreadsheets in software programs like Microsoft Excel, Numbers, or Google Sheets. There are also numerous online services that can help you create a thorough inventory of your property. Many of these services enable you to automatically share your inventory with chosen individuals at a time that you designate before death or disability strikes. The bottom line is that any of these methods can work well—the important thing is that you create an inventory. Below is an example of an inventory formatted as a spreadsheet with columns and rows: