How Your Last Will, Trust, and Life Insurance are Useless

If no one finds your last will, life insurance policy, or trust after you’re gone, they are useless. A Consumer Reports study recently found that since 2013, more than $1 billion in benefits from life insurance policies have been unclaimed. Estimates show that 1 in 600 people are entitled to unclaimed benefits. Why put your beneficiaries in a position of missing out on what you’ve bequeathed to them? Take steps to ensure that all the important information needed in the event of your death is readily available, including the location of your will, trust, and details about your life insurance policy.

Beneficiaries are Often Unaware of Benefits

U.S. federal agencies, states, and other entities collectively hold unclaimed benefits and cash amounting to more than $58 billion. That figure includes life insurance money owed to heirs who aren’t aware their deceased loved one had a life insurance policy. Obviously, it’s a common problem that beneficiaries don’t know their deceased loved one made financial provisions for them. In many instances, all of the payments for policies were completely wasted and ultimately turned out to be useless, simply because of a lack of communication.

$97,000 in Unclaimed Benefits

Ted Martell’s mother died in 1999, and he had no idea that she had a life insurance policy. In 2014, he was tracked down in California and surprised with the news that he had $97,000 coming to him from his mom’s life insurance company. Martell said he felt his mom was blessing them with happiness and love; but he almost missed out on the inheritance, due to lack of knowledge.

$400,000 in Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits

Scott Langbauer’s dad died in 2003. Twelve years later, in 2015, 40-year-old Langbauer of D.C. was informed that an insurance company owed him an astonishing $401,982. Up to that point, he had no idea his dad had a life insurance policy.

What Happens When Life Insurance Money is Unclaimed?

The normal procedure for claiming life insurance benefits after the death of the policyholder begins when the beneficiaries file a claim. If the life insurance policy is unknown to the beneficiaries or they forget about it, they sometimes never receive their money. Most states have laws directing insurers to seek out beneficiaries owed unclaimed money on life insurance policies. When a beneficiary cannot be found, the funds are turned over to whichever state the policyholder last lived in.

An Affordable Emergency Plan

The step so often missing in unclaimed benefits is informing loved ones they are the beneficiaries in a will, trust, or life insurance policy. It’s not enough to have these things. In the event that you are incapacitated or you die, someone needs to know where the information can be found. The documents themselves don’t contain all details needed to simplify things for your family members. Based on the experience of a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist, people responsible for the affairs of deceased loved ones usually scramble to try to figure out where documents are and how to handle a plethora of matters. An ideal resource to avoid this common problem is the Family Emergency Card. This affordable yet highly practical tool allows you to keep all pertinent information in one secure place. It’s important to inform loved ones about the resource, however.

If you create a family emergency plan, such as the one offered by the Family Emergency Card, your family will have everything they need, including the knowledge needed to claim their inheritance.

To document and centralize all your emergency information into one place click here

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist


How to Organize your Emergency Information

Serious emergencies and even death can come when most unexpected, which is why important information should be kept safe and organized. Being prepared is the best way to make sure your affairs are handled according to your wishes, if you become incapacitated or pass away.

No one likes to think of the inevitable, but you will give your family members a gift of great significance by coordinating information they would need in a serious emergency. In such situations, those responsible to handle things usually experience confusion, exhaustion, and extreme stress, as they try to figure out what their loved one would have wanted. From knowing your preferences in receiving medical care to funeral arrangements and how to handle your financial matters, your family could benefit from the efforts you make to prepare. Getting organized for an emergency is an excellent thing to do, and there are tools that can help.

What Documents to Gather & Where to Keep Them

There quite a few documents to prepare and organize, if you want to be truly prepared for whatever emergency arises. The documents need to be stored in a fireproof box, file cabinet, or safe. At least one family member should be informed of the location of your important papers. The following are the recommended documents:

  • Your Last Will and Testament.
  • A Living Revocable Trust. This is needed in the event that you are no longer able to handle your own affairs. A trustee must be appointed, and your assets will be transferred directly to your beneficiaries. This avoids the necessity of going through the legal process of probate.
  • A Living Will. The purpose of a living will is for you to make known your preferences for end-of-life medical treatment, in the event you can’t speak for yourself.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney. If you are seriously injured or incapacitated, it is helpful if you have appointed someone to have the final world regarding your medical care. This eliminates the possibility of legal battles among relatives.
  • Financial Power of Attorney. Through Financial Power of Attorney, you authorize someone to manage your finances for you. This could help to ensure that your estate doesn’t rack up debt by failing to meet ongoing financial obligations.
  • Beneficiary Accounts. Make it easy for your beneficiaries to file a claim and receive benefits from your life insurance policy and retirement or annuity accounts.
  • Copy of Marriage & Divorce Documents. Simplify matters by having documents such as marriage licenses and divorce decrees handy so that ownership could be transferred to a surviving spouse or denied on a false claim of spousal benefits.
  • Copy of your Last Tax Return. Even after you die, a final tax return should be filed for you. This can help to avoid complications with your estate.
  • Financial Accounts. Details about your bank accounts and involvements with other financial institutions, including outstanding debts, should be recorded for the benefit of family members.

Cover Important Details

Your family will need more than your important documents, if you want to equip them to handle your affairs with ease. The details are different for everyone, but the following are the types of things that you may also need to organize:

  • Help survivors avoid arguments by writing out clear directions for the executor of your will. Detail your instructions on managing and distributing the entirety of your estate.
  • Make a set of all of your keys, and use key tags to designate what each key is for. This may include house, car, safe deposit box, and more.
  • Leave passwords and log-ins for your computer(s) and all online accounts your family members will need access to.
  • Provide detailed instructions and retrieval codes, if you have cryptocurrency.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
  • File paperwork showing such things as the emergency contact you designated to access your safe deposit box in your absence.
  • Organize names and phone numbers your family members may need when handling your affairs.

The Best Way to Organize Detailed Emergency Information

No one knows better than people like medical professionals, estate specialists, and funeral directors how painfully difficult the task is for family members handling a deceased person’s affairs. Organizing important documents and providing details is invaluable! That’s why a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist came up with the Family Emergency Card. This resource has forms that can be filled out on a computer or printed out and written by hand. With the Family Emergency Card, everything is covered, with nothing missing. Simply fill out every category that applies to you, adding your information. With access to this resource, your family will find that no guesswork is involved in handling your estate. There are even places for personal notes and encouragements.

With the proper documents, a fireproof place to store your important papers, and the Family Emergency Card, everything will be conveniently organized for your loved ones, in the event you die or are no longer able to handle things on your own.

To create a family emergency plan for your family click here

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist


Countryliving, RdThebillfold

At What Age is Emergency Family Planning Recommended?

There are various activities people assume they don’t need to worry about until old age, and that sometimes includes emergency family planning. The purpose of this type of preparation is to enable loved ones to sort out and handle important matters if you become temporarily incapacitated or if you die. Mortality rates are higher the older you get, it’s true. But because of the high rate of accidents in the U.S., even those who are age 1 thru 44 are also at risk for an unexpected death. Planning for family emergencies is wise, and it is highly recommended for adults of all ages.

Risk Factor: Accidents

Statistics show that the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. is accidents. Among individuals age 1 through 44, accidents are the number one cause of death. No one expects to have a serious or fatal accident, but approximately 364.5 accidental fatalities occur across the country every day. To see the importance of family emergency planning, all you need to do is consider how difficult it would be for your family to figure out all of your valuable information regarding the handling of your affairs, if you were suddenly gone.

Essentials of Emergency Family Planning

Emergency family planning involves providing pertinent information that others can access in the event you get in a serious accident or suddenly die for any reason. Let a responsible, trusted individual know where to find all of the information to keep your affairs in order or to handle affairs after your death. This can help to ensure that important monthly obligations are kept, while you are temporarily incapacitated. If you prepare a family emergency plan before your death, the handling of your estate is much easier for loved ones.

How to Plan for a Family Emergency

You can come up with your own system for advising family members of important matters. However, it may make a great deal more sense to utilize a planning method devised by an experienced Certified Estate and Trust Specialist, namely, the Family Emergency Card. This is a method of emergency family planning that takes out all of the guesswork. It also ensures that you don’t leave out any important details.

Ensure that Your Wishes are Reflected

The Family Emergency Card stores data that you can enter on any computer by plugging it into a USB port. Make sure a family member knows about the card and where you keep it. If the time comes that it is needed, this resource will provide all of the essential details your family would otherwise be painstakingly looking for in your desk and on your computer, which they may be locked out of.

In addition to providing all essentials such as bank accounts, insurance information, and passwords, the Family Emergency Card allows for entry of letters to family members and instructions about your wishes, in regards to whatever you treasure most. The card does not replace a will, but you can download and store a copy of your will and other documents onto the card. The original documents should be safely stored in a fireproof file cabinet, box, or safe.

Adults of All Ages are Advised to Prepare for Emergencies

No matter how healthy or young you are, you are still at risk for a serious or fatal type of emergency. It’s human tendency to avoid thinking of such things and to put off addressing them year after year. You will potentially be doing your family a tremendous service, if you go ahead and prepare for a family crisis with a Family Emergency Card, whatever your adult age.

For more information about the Family Emergency Card click here


Medical News Today

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist

A Simple yet Comprehensive Emergency Plan for Small Business Owners

A comprehensive emergency plan is needed for small business owners, start-up founders, freelancers, and the self-employed, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, and other professionals. Unlike large corporations that have a board of directors familiar with details of operation, a small business owner has fewer than 20 employees. In fact, according to Census Bureau data for 2016, three-fourths of U.S. businesses have no paid employees. If you are a small business owner and you become incapacitated due to an accident or illness or if you pass away, is there anyone who can jump in to handle your business affairs? A comprehensive emergency plan could help to protect all that you’ve worked for.

Business Succession Planning

Business succession planning can go a long way in setting up your wishes for who succeeds you if you become disabled, retire, or pass away. Document financial and logistical decisions regarding the transfer of business ownership to an heir, co-owner, outside party, or key employee. Selling the company is another option.

If you are a family business owner, there can be additional challenges in preparing an emergency plan. The top concern for most in your position is to ensure that management of the business remains with a family member or person you designate. Your emergency plan may need to include the establishment of a process for decision-making to involve members of your family.

Creating a transition plan would be very helpful in an emergency situation. Options include making your small business a family member’s inheritance or arranging for outright purchase.

A Simple yet Comprehensive Emergency Plan for Small Business Owners

Outside the major business decisions made with business succession planning, there are many small but essential details that need to be accessible when you are unavailable. The reality is that many practical matters are frequently overlooked. An expert in such matters, a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist, recognized the need for a comprehensive emergency plan for small business owners. A Family Emergency Card has since been created. The resource makes it easy to provide numerous important details that might otherwise be lacking.

All categories of information that might be needed are included on the handy wallet-sized small business emergency card that has a USB connection for any computer. On the subject of finances alone, there are 22-plus topics. An insurance section provides prompts to include details about the following types of insurance and more: Life, medical, renters, homeowners, disability, and long-term care.

A Truly Comprehensive Emergency Plan

All of your affairs for your small business and your personal life can be addressed on the Family Emergency Card. There are areas for encouragement, words of wisdom, and other expressions.

In addition, there are prompts to record often-neglected details on the Family Emergency Card, such as: Various passwords for online accounts, email accounts, lock combinations, safe deposit box information, unpaid invoices, pending projects, and lease agreements.

Prepare today for Unexpected Emergencies

Small business owners account for 89% of all US employers. Family businesses, which are often in the small business category, make up half of the gross national product. The importance of properly handling your affairs may be greater than you realize, creating a more significant impact than you might guess. The comprehensive Family Emergency Card makes it easy for small business owners to prepare for the unexpected.

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist



Business Know How; Forbes; Fit Small Business

5 Things to Do as Part of an Incapacity Plan

Every adult should have an incapacity plan or estate plan, to prepare for family emergencies and health crises. This kind of preparation is easily put off, until something catastrophic happens, such as being diagnosed with a serious illness requiring surgery. The details of executing an incapacity plan involve gathering a lot of pertinent information and signing applicable legal documents. A helpful resource for family emergencies is one with a comprehensive checklist and a place for personal notes. With the following six items, you should be all set with a thorough incapacity plan.

1. Living Trust

A living trust is created to be in effect while you are alive. The title to your property and ownership of your assets are transferred to a person you name as trustee of the living trust. The document is easy to amend and cancel. A living trust allows you to dictate how your assets should be managed and distributed, since the successor trustee is obligated to and bound by your directives.

2. Power of Attorney – Medical

In the event you become incapacitated, a medical power of attorney (POA) gives the person you designate (your agent) the authority to make healthcare decisions. Your wishes should, of course, be discussed with the chosen agent, so that he or she knows your healthcare preferences.

3. Power of Attorney – Financial

Some financial matters are outside the scope of a living trust and should be covered with a financial power of attorney. Your agent for financial POA will manage your finances and pay your bills, in the event you become incapacitated.

4. HIPAA Authorization

Because of a federal law known as HIPAA, medical providers may not be allowed to share your medical information with loved ones. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability. The purpose of the law is to protect your privacy. Your doctor and others in your medical team can much more easily communicate important information to your family, if you sign an HIPAA authorization.

5. Comprehensive Checklist Detailing Your Affairs

Should your become incapacitated or pass away, your family will be left to handle all of your financial affairs. Even when important legal papers are prepared, many other steps are overlooked. The best thing you could do is organize all of your information related to finances, insurance, the needs and involvements of your children, your pets, healthcare, personal property and much more.

Your passwords will be needed for your cell phone, email accounts, computer, laptop, safe deposit box, encrypted files, and more. Leave details about such things as location of keys and essential documents and access to storage. Make emergency contact information accessible, such as attorneys, doctors, employers, and business associates.

There is an easy way to store all of this information in one convenient place. A Certified Estate and Trust Specialist has come up with the Family Emergency Card, which makes it easy to record all the details family members might need in your absence. There are even places for personal notes and words of wisdom.

A Convenient Place to Record Incapacity Plans

Most people tending to the business of a loved one who has died or become incapacitated are forced to painstakingly search for the needed information. It’s extremely difficult to handle someone’s affairs, unless there has been proper incapacity planning or family emergency planning. In addition to helping your loved ones, taking these steps helps to ensure that your wishes are followed regarding your healthcare and your estate. Besides getting incapacity planning assistance from an attorney for applicable legal documents, one of the best decisions you can make is to get a Family Emergency Card.

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist

Crisis Planning for Individuals Diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Family crises come in many forms, from accidents to natural disasters to medical conditions and more. A crisis can occur suddenly and completely without warning. In the case of individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, the ultimate crisis occurs gradually, as the disease progresses. Going through these illnesses associated with tragic memory loss and often a rapid decline in overall health is often excruciating for loved ones and friends. To avoid allowing a terribly difficult situation to be even worse, crisis planning for progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s is important.

A Crisis that Comes on Gradually

When a person has Alzheimer’s, the disease destroys neurons in the brain. All memories, thoughts, movements, sensations, and feelings are a result of signals passing through neurons.

Seven stages of Alzheimer’s Disease have been identified, the third of which is early-stage dementia. Certainly, by stage five, in which memory deficits are severe, it is really too late to have the affected individual’s help in crisis planning. Since everyone progresses at different stages, it’s best to fully address the crisis as early as possible.

How to Prepare for a Family Crisis

No matter what ultimately has a devastating impact on a family, preparation for an emergency or crisis is basically the same. A Certified Estate and Trust Specialist devised a convenient method to prepare for serious health issues or death, after seeing that people seldom develop a plan that helps family members handle matters. The end result is usually that the worst times are made infinitely and unnecessarily more difficult.

The Family Emergency Card was developed precisely for situations such as a loved one being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Family emergency planning takes a huge weight off of caregivers and the family members involved in handling practical matters.

Information Stored on a Family Emergency Card

Proper emergency planning involves putting details about all of the usual affairs of life within easy reach. When you use the affordable Family Emergency Card for Alzheimer’s and dementia crisis planning, your resource guides you through all the various categories that should be addressed. This provides peace of mind, since you can be confident everything is covered.

Types of Information to Store for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Crisis Planning

As a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s experiences continued decline in brain function, detailed knowledge about important matters is slipping away. While the individual is in mild stages of the disease, gather all the applicable information for the Family Emergency Card. Categories of data that can be stored and easily accessed by plugging in the card’s USB connection include the following:

Finances. Financial information can be stored on the Family Emergency Card about bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, safe deposit boxes, debts, credit cards, security deposits, and more.

Insurance. Details about insurance can be entered, such as life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, medical insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, and more.

Other Categories. The Family Emergency Card can also keep record of Letters to Loved Ones; Passwords; Children; Pets; Estate Plans; Projects in Progress; Location of Items, such as documents, keys, and stored items; Business; Medical History; Real Estate; and much more.

Prepare for the Family Crisis Today

There is tremendous benefit to loved ones left behind or temporarily handing business, if there is a resource to provide all needed information. If you’ve been looking for help with crisis planning for dementia or Alzheimer’s, the Family Emergency Card may be the perfect solution.

Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh

About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist

Caregiver Homes  Crises Prevention