Legal-Ease: Best gift other than time is organization

Growing up, I occasionally found coins on the sidewalk or under the counter at my grandparents’ hardware store.

Once I learned how to read numbers, I could not wait to save up enough coins to buy something for my mom, who I idolized. I studied everything that was for sale at my grandparents’ store, and eventually found a small, glass bowl marked at $0.49.

Upon saving up coins totaling $0.49, I proudly purchased that bowl and took it home to my mom.

At home, my mom did her best to express sincere thanks for my gift while trying to explain that buying her things was not necessary to show her love.

In our busy lives, time is often our most valuable asset, because time is the one thing of which we can never get more. In fact, a motto at our office is, “Paper is cheap; time is expensive.” Thus, because our time is our most valuable asset, giving time is often our most valuable gift.

Of course, God ensures that every person’s physical life (and its window of time) eventually ends.

Grief is horrible, miserable and exhausting in every way. When grieving the loss of a loved one, facing the additional, herculean task of organizing that loved one’s affairs can be paralyzing.

Everyone thinks that they are organized. However, organization of our post-death affairs is different from regularly balancing our checking account or being prompt in paying monthly bills.

Organizing our post-death affairs before we die is like giving our loved ones our time after we die.

As this column has previously explained, every adult should have a last will and testament. The minimum value of a will is its ability to help your loved ones avoid having insurance on themselves that would protect them from stealing your assets from themselves. And, yes, you read that last sentence correctly.

In addition to having a will, it is important to tell loved ones where your will is located. Many local attorneys who prepare wills for clients keep the original will in the attorney’s office. This is because a valid, enforceable will in Ohio is required to be an original “wet ink” version.

In addition to identifying where your will is located, you should also list out the locations of your birth certificate (if you possess one), your original car titles, your social security card (if you have one) and your life insurance policies.

You should also seriously consider preparing a list of all of your assets to assist your loved ones after you pass away. The list may change over time, but an “old starting point” for your loved ones is always better than nothing.

Finally, make sure that every bank, investment and retirement account has your trust or your spouse and descendants listed as beneficiaries, payees or transferees (depending upon the type of account).

Organization of your post-death affairs is a gift of time (and love) that you give while alive that your loved ones receive after you die.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.