Estate planning can be daunting, but it’s essential if you want to ensure your legacy and make life that little bit easier for those left behind. So what’s in Captain Fi’s estate plan folder?
To help demystify the process and get organised with your estate plan, creating your very own ‘fearless folder’ estate plan is an excellent way to manage all of your important documents, estate assets, passwords, wills and other end-of-life wishes.
In this article, I cover why having an up-to-date folder like this can bring peace of mind – not only now, but later on down the track when you or family members need it most.
After the passing of my dear Mum, despite thinking we had everything covered, we learned the hard way just how much there is to deal with managing an estate. Mix in some tension, jealousy, family conflict, and a lot of grief, and it’s a very depressing activity.
Why create an Estate Plan folder for managing your wills and estate?
Creating an Estate plan folder to help manage your estate plan can be an intimidating task. The estate planning process requires you to take stock of everything in life – your passwords, original documents, and most importantly, crafting a Will for the future of your family. The thought of death is often unsettling but it does not need to be daunting; reading up on the best ways to set up an effective estate plan will ensure that managing this process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming.
As Australians are taking charge and preparing for our golden years ahead wisely, if we all design our own estate plan from today – we can reap the rewards of peace of mind, knowing we don’t have to burden our loved ones with carrying out any tedious, frustrating (or sometimes downright impossible) work on our behalf when uncertain times arrive.
What is an estate plan or “fearless folder”?
An estate plan “fearless folder” is a helpful tool that can ease one’s mind when it comes to planning for the future. This folder can hold important documents such as your will, powers of attorney1, health care directives, and insurance policies all in one place. It’s a great way to make sure that your loved ones have access to all necessary information should anything happen to you. By taking the time to organize your affairs into a “fearless folder,” you’re taking the first step in securing your legacy and making sure that everything is taken care of in the way that you want it to be. It can be daunting to think about planning for the future, but with a “fearless folder” at the ready, you can rest assured that you’ve got all of your bases covered.
How to gather documents, passwords and other important information
When it comes to organizing your important documents and passwords, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. But with a little bit of planning and effort, you can make this task easier on yourself. Start by creating a checklist of all the documents and information you need to gather.
This may include birth certificates, passports, financial statements, usernames and passwords for online accounts, and more. Then, choose a secure location to store this information, such as a fireproof safe, or better yet an encrypted digital storage or password manager2 (Just make sure the master password is written down in your safe – or even better write down the first HALF in the safe, and have the second HALF stored with your lawyer or a trusted friend).
“A password manager is essentially an encrypted digital vault that stores secure password login information you use to access apps and accounts on your mobile device, websites and other services. In addition to keeping your identity, credentials and sensitive data safe, the best password managers also have a password generator to create strong, unique passwords and ensure you aren’t using the same password in multiple places.”cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/best-password-manager2
I will write down a full list at the end of the article of what I include in mine, and what you can include.
Make sure to update this information regularly, and let a trusted family member or friend know where to find it in case of an emergency. Taking these steps will give you peace of mind knowing that your important information is safely organized and easily accessible when needed.
Choosing a place to store the folder (e.g., safety deposit box, lawyer’s office, etc.)
When it comes to storing important documents like legal or financial folders, it’s crucial to choose a safe and secure location. Options like a safety deposit box or a lawyer’s office may come to mind, but how do you decide which one is best for you?
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons, such as accessibility, cost, and level of security. A safety deposit box may provide added protection against theft or natural disasters, while a lawyer’s office may offer more accessibility when it comes to retrieving the folder.
Some will choose to store their estate plan in a safe tucked away at home.
Consider your personal needs and priorities before choosing a storage location, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice from trusted professionals. After all, ensuring the safety of important documents is essential for peace of mind.
Tips for ensuring that your family can easily access the folder in case of your absence
It’s never easy to think about what could happen if we’re not around, but it’s important to prepare for the worst. That’s why it’s crucial to create a folder with all the important information your family would need if you were ever absent. Here are a few tips to ensure that your loved ones can easily access the folder in case of an emergency.
- First, choose a place that’s easy to remember and tell your family and trusted advisors where it’s located – whether this is a safety deposit box, safe, or your lawyer’s office.
- Second, make sure to make additional copies of your will, and note the storage location of your estate plan or ‘Fearless Folder’ either directly in your will, or on a note stored with the will (don’t staple the note or attach it to the will as this can potentially cause legal headaches, consider just sliding it into the same plastic sleeve envelope the will is in)
- Third, create a digital copy of the estate plan (sans the passwords) and save it in a secure storage system such as an encrypted USB, hard drive or cloud storage. Obviously make sure that your family can access this if you ever die, disappear, or are incapacitated. This means you must share the password and any necessary login information with someone you trust, or again do the same trick by providing HALF of the password each to two trusted advisors, or storing HALF in your safe or safety deposit box.
By following these tips, you can rest assured that your family will have access to everything they need in case of your absence.
Updates to make over time – what documents should you add or update each year?
Making updates to your documents each year can feel like a daunting task, but it’s crucial to ensure that your records are accurate and up-to-date. While there are various documents you might need to update, the most important ones include your will, insurance policies, and tax returns. Remember that life changes, and so should your documentation. Has there been a birth, death, marriage, or divorce in your family? Have you switched jobs or moved? These are all events that could affect your financial situation and personal assets, making it necessary to update your documents accordingly. By staying on top of your paperwork, you can rest easy, knowing that your important records are current and will be there to support you when you need them.
Captain FI’s Estate Plan
I am writing this article as I just updated my own Estate Plan Folder. It ended up being a twenty-four-page document listing EVERYTHING that my partner needs to know about to manage my passing or incapacitation should that ever happen.
Initially, this was something I learned about from my Barefoot Blueprint subscription as a part of the ‘Fearless Folder’ month in the Barefoot Blueprint, but I’ve taken to updating each year and adding a heap more relevant information. Since my mum’s passing, I’ve also learned the hard way about a few extra things that needed to be added.
My personal Estate plan / Fearless Folder contains the following topics;
- An introduction explaining what the document is
- A table of contents so its easy to find relevant information
- Details of my wealth and investments, including all trade reports and cost base calculations for my Shares, Property, Crypto and Website business.
- Details of my debt (IP mortgage)
- All of my bank accounts, account numbers and balances
- All of my insurance policies
- A description of my business, including business banking, how the business works, assets the business holds, ABN, contractors and professionals I use, customers and advertising partners, where information is stored and how to sell the business
- A list of my possessions, where they are, and their approximate value
- Details of my vehicle, maintenance record, vehicle insurance and registrations
- Original copies of my birth certificate, birth notification (and my parents birth certificates)
- My passports (Both Expired and Certified true copies of my current ones). When I am not traveling, the passports go into the safe.
- Will and last testament
- Advanced care directive3 / medical enduring power of attorney election
- A copy of our Binding Financial Agreement4 (showing dissolution in the event of my death and estate to be distributed to her as per the will)
- All of my various accounts (i.e. emails, social media, brokerage account phone provider, internet etc) and how to get the passwords from my lawyer
- Which people and professionals to speak to for help (back up executor, accountant, lawyer, business advisor and friends to help)
- Wishes for my funeral
- Answers to some difficult questions such as – ‘If both parents die, who should look after the pets/children’, and ‘At what age should my children receive their inheritance’. I go into a lot more personal detail for my specific circumstances in mine.
- Further instructions on gifts to leave to people and organizations when I pass
- Directions for setting up charitable trusts for scholarships and medical missions in the Philippines
- Tax obligations for both me and the business
- Finally, a letter just for her
The document was physically printed and signed, and added to the folder with other master original documents and certified true copies (will, BFA, ACD, Birth certificate etc) and securely stored in the safety deposit box.
It also served as a great reminder to do my annual financial health check at the same time and sort out my insurances (checking cover and validity and prices), bills / subscriptions and bank balances, back up all my files and delete old accounts. I also took the opportunity to shred all the old and unnecessary documentation I’d been storing such as my share receipts and old tax documentation.
Furthermore, if you have any other relevant information such as that pertaining to a divorce settlement, pension, having children, family trusts etc, then you should also include original or certified true copies of those. If you can think of any other legal document/s or things to add, please comment below. Other items you may need to include in your estate plan include
- Superannuation binding death nomination
- TPI, and death (Life) insurance policy
Summary of Estate Plans
Now you have the knowledge and resources to create your very own estate plan or “fearless folder” for your family. This will allow you to ensure that, in the event of your passing, your remaining family members have access to all of your important documents such as wills or passwords and won’t have to scrounge around to try and piece everything together whilst they are grieving or in shock.
When considering where to store this vital information, remember that online accounts may be harder for others to access without direct authorization, but you need to balance accessibility with security, and you don’t want this information getting out in a data breach. Choose a safe location such as a safety deposit box, lawyer’s office or trusted family member’s home.
Also keep in mind that it is necessary to revisit and update this folder each year with new documents, information or passwords which can help make the transition easier for those who will be left behind. Estate planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming and creating an estate plan or fearless folder is one of the most compassionate and kindest things you can do for your loved ones and family.
If you need assistance with your own estate planning (distributing assets, intended beneficiaries, medical decisions, funeral arrangements or general financial decisions) or that of somebody else, you can always hire an estate planning lawyer5 or a financial adviser to guide you.
“An estate planner (or estate planning attorney) is a licensed attorney who specializes in end-of-life planning. Also known as an estate probate attorney or an estate planner, they can help educate you on the estate planning process and the laws that affect the transfer, disbursement, and taxation of your estate. ”metlife.com/stories/legal/steps-to-prepare-for-meeting-estate-planning-attorney5
- What is a Power of Attorney?, NSW Trustee & Guardian. Accessed online at https://www.tag.nsw.gov.au/wills/make-power-attorney/what-power-attorney on April 21, 2023.
- Best Password Manager in 2023, Clifford Colby, CNet. Published: April 17, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/best-password-manager/ on April 21, 2023.
- Advance care directive, Health.gov.au. Accessed online at https://www.health.gov.au/topics/palliative-care/planning-your-palliative-care/advance-care-directive on April 21, 2023.
- Binding Financial Agreements, Legal Vision. Accessed online at https://legalvision.com.au/binding-financial-agreements/ on April 21, 2023.
- ‘What Is an Estate Attorney and What Do They Do?’, MetLife. Published: Oct 11, 2022. Accessed online at https://www.metlife.com/stories/legal/steps-to-prepare-for-meeting-estate-planning-attorney/ on April 21, 2023.