Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Estate Planning "Checklist for Life" Available

On February 14, 2008, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article by Tim Grant entitled "Bank puts estate planning checklist onto the Internet", which described a "Checklist for Life" (PDF, 7 pages) posted on the Internet by Huntington National Bank.

, through its bank based in Columbus, Ohio (but with 61 branches in Pittsburgh & Western Pennsylvania), appears to be one of the few financial institutions that has posted publicly & freely a personal financial inventory form that could assist in scoping out personal financial & estate planning matters.

The article notes the usefulness of such an inventory form for an individual:

The only way to have peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order and all property will be passed on according to your wishes if you were to die is to have an estate plan. * * *

Yet these seniors often do not have an estate plan because they don't think they're wealthy enough for one. Still, talking to family members about death and dying can be among the toughest conversations to have.

But managers at Huntington Bank have created a
Checklist For Life to get the conversation started. * * *

Such checklists are commonly used by lawyers and financial planners, but are not commonly placed on the Internet. * * *

The article quoted an officer of the Bank, who explained why the institution posted the form publicly:

"We did the Checklist For Life because it's the first step," said Tom Oehmler, senior vice president and regional manager for Huntington Bank, Downtown.

People who will be transferring their wealth need to understand where they are right now in terms of their net worth, what they own, how they own it and what they want to happen to it at the end of their lives.

The Checklist For Life is a tool they can use to pull all that information together in one place, Mr. Oehmler said.

"The more important thing from our perspective is that families have this discussion," he said. "If parents are going to pass assets to their children this will help them have that discussion to see what their financial picture is." * * *

Answers.Com describes the components of a basic Personal Financial Inventory, as follows:

Detailed descriptive list made available to the survivor(s) of the insured showing: attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and location of important documents such as wills, power of attorney, property deeds, insurance policies by account number, bank accounts by account number, investments by account number, loans by account number, credit cards by account number, and any other important financial papers. Safe deposit boxes and keys location should also be listed.

The Huntington personal financial inventory form joins a few others -- available in text, PDF, or software formats -- that I found on the Internet:

  • Financial Inventory (process explanation), posted by Financial Freedom Made Simple -- "The first step on the way to financial freedom is to take inventory of your current situation. This is important because you need to know where you are at to be able to make a plan of where you are going to go. Taking an inventory means getting a detailed overview. It is not complicated and do not have to have fancy equipment or special programs. Start by doing it simple. You will need to write down everything you owe and everything you own. * * *"
  • My Financial House – Personal Finance Software™, posted by the Insurance Information Institute -- "This free software enables you to take an inventory of your financial situation and track progress towards your financial goals. Once you complete your financial inventory, you can share it with your accountant, financial advisor and/or attorney – someone you trust – to help you plan for your future, so that even in an emergency you will know if your financial house is in order. You can also email your inventory and save it to a disk to store it for safe keeping. * * *"

The article noted the value of a personal financial inventory, when it quoted a representative of TIAA-CREF, a national financial services company with a Pittsburgh office.
Patrick Kennedy, head of wealth management services for TIAA-CREF, said, "Even if you have a small estate there are some basic things you can do, like making sure you have an inventory of your assets."
That is how the Huntington personal financial inventory form (and others like it) can be used: "It has been developed to help you organize all of your financial information or your parents' financial information in one place."

Update: 02/21/08:

Professor Gerry W. Beyer noted this posting by his own on the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog entitled
‘Checklist for Life’ – A Useful Tool in Estate Planning (02/21/08).

Update: 07/31/08:

I encountered a few more useful estate planning questionnaires/worksheets available online: