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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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February 10, 2005: Before Death Responsibilities

Q: I found your last column in the Senior Voice about what to do after someone dies helpful but what can we do while we are alive to organize things?

A: Your question summarizes a number of similar questions that I received after the column ran. Although I have written on this topic before, letÕs just review a few suggestions.

Think about establishing a storage site such as a filing cabinet to house the information and documents that will be needed to settle your affairs. (It can also make you better organized for lifeÕs routine legal and business matters too).

Be sure you have possession of the original Will, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Living Will and instead of the filing cabinet, you might wish to store these documents in a more secure location such as a bank box or safe. Take steps to insure that others know where documents are and can access them. Be sure that the combination to the lock or key location is disclosed and in Colorado add another name to the signature card at the bank if you have a safe deposit box.

It is very important to make a fairly comprehensive listing of assets which can be used as a checklist. Thus, those in charge of settling the estate know what assets need to be handled. The list should also include names of the key people who would need to be contacted or could supply information.

I would also suggest that you keep financial and business records, such as a year of bank statements, investment printout sheets, etc., with the other documents in your "file cabinet." Material older than a year should also be kept but in another location. Many Personal Representatives are overwhelmed with "records" and waste a lot of time going through "stuff" while other fiduciaries come up dry in their information search because everything was thrown away after five or seven years.

Be sure that originals of car titles, insurance policies, C.D.s, bank books, etc., to mention a few, are also kept together Š any originals that would be needed by your personal representative.

Too many people hide things around the house. So disclose where money is tucked away or jewelry is ferreted. Often such things are never discovered, or are found by buyers at the estate yard sale or a demolition crew tearing down the house.

You computer types need to run and keep hard copies. Far too often, and for any number of reasons, information in computers prove to be totally useless, primarily for access reasons, or because of accidents such as deletion, or just an inability to find information locations.

For surviving singles, the general rule is not to add people to titles in joint tenancy or as beneficiaries (or payable on death) on things such as bank accounts, C.D.s, etc. Check with your attorney before you permit such adjustments.

Finally, (out of space) if possible donÕt keep original stock certificates, etc. Set up a street account somewhere. That way securities are not lost and transferring such investment instruments can take place quickly and inexpensively.

Hopefully, the foregoing has helped. At some point in the future I will cover additional material.

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