We spent most of last Friday driving from North Carolina to Miami, Florida. That was a 15 hour butt numbing drive with a few stops for food and recirculation (of the legs and behinds). Unfortunately, this wasn’t a leisure trip. I was in Miami last October to start some Estate planning my parents and was going back to wrap up on some key items.
We spent several hours Saturday morning at Bank of America where my parents keep their checking and savings account. I wanted to get several things done, getting online access to their checking account was critical. They no longer keep track of their expenses, bills or income, so I’m doing that for them. The next item was taking a somewhat substantial amount that they had in savings and gifting it to family members that could be trusted to hold the money in reserve should they ever need it. Although I’m not a big fan of BofA and their exorbitant fees, I’ll give the staff kudos, they were courteous and helpful to the nth degree in helping us get everything done.
Saturday afternoon was spent going through piles of old paperwork they had forgotten they had. Finding a deed to the property they live in was the first challenge, luckily I found that about an hour into the search. I also found account statements over twenty years old for various IRA’s. I’ll have to spend some time in the next few weeks tracking their accounts down and making them productive for my parents again.
Some of the more interesting things I found were their immigration and naturalization documents from the early sixties. The pictures on them were amazing, I plan on framing those documents someday. It’s at this point where I think I started getting a little emotional. It’s difficult enough seeing you parents age and decline in their capabilities. They were the pillars of strength that guided me through my childhood and into adulthood.
I’m not ashamed to say that seeing these pictures of them in their prime, having left Cuba to avoid the political nightmare they knew was coming choked me up some. Hey, I’m latin so it’s ok for me to be emotional! Once I finished with the documents I stopped for the day and thought I would capture some of the thoughts that have been crossing my mind today to share with you.
It’s never too early to start Estate Planning. There are the obvious things that need to be done. Will’s, gifting and trusts are all important aspects of estate planning that need to be considered as part of any estate planning activity. But what about the less obvious and easier to forget things that are just as important? Deeds, Titles for vehicles and other important documents should all be safeguarded and someone (other than the owner) should know where they are. A complete list of financial accounts should be put together and kept somewhere safe, probably along with the other documents. It can be in a safety deposit box, a safe or kept with a trusted individual. But you should have a complete list of important documents, that’s kept up to date and in a place where it can be easily be found.
This doesn’t only apply to elderly or ageing parents. Anyone with a household to maintain needs to think about this as well. Should the worse happen; will your survivors know where to find these documents? Will they be able to find and take actions on your finances and related accounts? Although it’s not a pleasant subject, your family needs to know or have access to this information.
In case you’re wondering, it’s not all grim business while we’re down here. We’ve had a chance to spend some time with my parents. My wife and I are taking a day and a half to go to Key Largo for a little down time together (15 hour drives together don’t count as downtime), And we plan on getting in a set of dives while in Key Largo, she’ll be finishing her advance open water certification with those dives! Here’s one other very pleasant (for us) fact. We escaped the weather! I’m running around in shorts, it’s a 77 degree sunny day and it’s snowing back home!
We’ll be back in Miami Monday night and have an appointment with an estate lawyer Tuesday to discuss Asset protection trusts. If they make sense for my parents, we’ll start the process of getting one in place You can expect another post soon on the balance of our “Estate Planning” trip. Oh, and in case your wondering, that is a picture of my mom and dad, Jose Sr and Fermina.
Do you have any stories or experiences related to estate planning? Please share them with us, I’d definitely be interested in hearing from you on this.
A parting thought, here’s a tip for anyone visiting Miami: Don’t park your car underneath pretty trees. When we went to the car this morning we found that it had been decorated in a rainbow variety of Poop. Bug poop, bird poop, even tree poop and some other unidentifiable substances were scattered all over the car, merrily eating their way into the paint! Needless to say, a car wash was on our to do list today.