Estate Planning Checklist

Complete your check list.

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2015 COLA Update

Federal retirees in the CSRS and FERS retirement systems may receive a COLA increase of 2% or more in 2015. Complete COLA information is available on this site. Active federal employee's pay may increase 3% in 2015 if administration's request is accepted by Congress.  

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The Estate Planning Checklist - Part 6

 

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A free downloadable Survivor's Checklist file in Microsoft Word format is available for download. Use this Word document to draft your personal "Survivor's Checklist" for your loved ones. Locate any required documents and forms and place them in your binder with a completed copy of this form.  . 

 

This is the sixth part of a multi part series on preparing for retirement and basic estate planning for feds. If you missed the last two articles I suggest reviewing them to understand the estate planning binder concept that this article continues with. When I was developing my plan I wanted to make sure that the executor would be able to make sense of it all. A checklist is an ideal way to put things together in logical order and I used checklists extensively throughout my life for personal and business purposes.   

The “Survivor’s Checklist” will basically guide your executor and/or surviving family through your personalized “Survivor’s Instructions & Guide” binder and help the family get things back on track after you exit. Sounds sort of callous or impersonal but it is just the opposite. You want to help your loved ones through this trying time and this is a sure way to do just that. 

This checklist, like all action lists, isn’t all inclusive and is meant to augment your total estate plan including the binder, you wills and trusts, and consultations with an attorney when appropriate. It is basically a guide to help your family get familiar with your total estate; what has to be done NOW - Right Away - and point out key information, required forms, and actions. 

NOTE: Small to average estates will find this article especially helpful. Small estates may only require a Letter of Instruction, Survivor’s Checklist, and a basic Will. I do encourage those in this category to also complete a home inventory and provide key contact information as well 

SURVIVOR’S CHECKLIST (Sample)
Prepared by: [person who prepared this document]
Date Prepared: [date]
This checklist will help survivors focus on key areas that need to be addressed and to insure important forms are submitted so that your spouse’s annuity will continue and assets are properly transferred.   

 

Survivors, executors and/or co-executors should review “Plan Your Estate” and “The Executor’s Guide.”  Both books are located  [specify location] . These books explains probate, wills and trusts and other areas that you may need additional information and guidance for. Our wills were completed using [specify software such as Willmaker Plus or the attorney that you used] and they are located  [specify location] .  

  • Read letter of Instruction (section 1)
  • Review Survivor’s Report (section 3)
  • Review Financial reports (section 5)
  • Complete SF 2800 form. (forms available from OPM or on our forms page.
NOTE: Before submitting this form call the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at 1-888-767-6738 to report my death and to check that you have the most current SF 2800 form. OPM will send out the proper forms if needed with instructions. You can also submit a report of death on OPM’s web site at http://www.opm.gov/retire. Select the tab titled “Contacting Us” then select “Report the death of someone who gets benefits from us.”
This form will continue your spouses’ annuity. Your spouse will receive 55% of what you received unless you and your wife agreed to a reduced survivor’s annuity at the time you retired. Your spouses’ medical coverage will continue. Complete instructions are included on the web site mentioned above. You will need to do the following: 
  • Attach a copy of your marriage certificate (Make sure you have a copy for your spouse to file with this document)
  • Attach a copy of the retirees DD form 214 (For military service)
  • Attach copy  of death certificate
  • Mail to address listed on the SF-2800 form
  • Send US Mail Certified with return receipt
  • KEEP A COPY OF EVERYTHING YOU SEND
NOTE: If you don’t hear back from OPM within 2 weeks call 1-888-767-6738 to follow-up. You can email them at retire@opm.gov.
  • Change your Government Health Care Coverage from “Family” to “High Option Self.” This will save your spouse several thousand dollars a year. OPM should send out the proper forms when your spouse reports your death to them. If you spouse doesn’t receive the proper forms, call OPM immediately and request the forms to make this change.
  •  Review Contact Lists – (binder – section 8)
    • Includes Login IDs and Passwords lists for all online program and account information.
    • A print out of my address books is located  [specify location] . This includes about any and all contact information you will need.
  • Go through all desk files to familiarize yourselves with what is there and where policies and other data are located.
  •  Register the will with the court house. Many of our assets will transfer out of probate.
Note: Jointly owned assets such as checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, house and cars go automatically to the surviving spouse in most states. Review Plan Your Estate for detailed guidance. Assets owned individually have designated beneficiaries, “Pay on Death” account designations or are passed direct to our children or loved ones through “Living Trusts” located  [specify location] . Living Trusts are not recorded like the will. Read the instructions with the Living Trusts and use  Plan Your Estate and The Executors Guide for more guidance.
  • File insurance claims – Survivor’s report lists ALL insurance contact information and you will find insurance policies located in [specify location] . You will need a death certificate for each policy. I have the following policies.
    • FEGLI (Federal Employees Government Life Insurance)  $ [coverage amount]  until retirement, $ [coverage amount]  _____________ after retirement.
    • Policy from $ [company name]  for $ [coverage amount]  Beneficiaries [names of beneficiaries].
    • Policy from [company name]  for $ [coverage amount]  Beneficiaries [names of beneficiaries].
    • Policy from [company name]  for $ [coverage amount]  Beneficiaries [names of beneficiaries].
  •  Change registration on all common assets:
    • Change name on residence to “Spouse - or loved ones - Name” or to a “Living Trust” to avoid probate.
    • Change name on all joint assets to “Surviving Spouse” or designated beneficiary. (Add “Pay on Death (POD)” whenever possible when you register the documents to avoid probate later.)
    • Some assets/stocks, etc will go direct to “children or other loved ones” upon either my or my “Spouses” death. Designated beneficiaries must send in a death certificate to the account/asset manager to change the registration to the new owner.
Note: New owners need to identify beneficiaries or add POD. Be sure to add a beneficiary or POD designation for the new owner registration.
  • All of my savings bonds are designated Pay on Death (POD) to [names of beneficiary]. My “Surviving Spouse” or designated bond beneficiary has to do is present a Certified Death Certificate to the bank when you cash the bonds in. the “Surviving Spouse” or beneficiary will have to pay taxes on the bond interest. Make sure the bank provides a statement of interest earned for income taxes the year they were cashed.
  •  All income tax files for the past [number of years] years are located in [specify location].
  •  [Other information that your heirs may find helpful.]

Go to Part 7 - Caretaker & Survivor's report
Go back to Part 5 - Putting it All Together
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