Dear Liza: I’ve just completed my estate planning documents using the latest edition of WillMaker Plus, including the will, health care documents, power of attorney, final arrangements, etc. I think all totaled it comes to over 65 pages. I’d like to leave all the documents well-organized so they’re not just a pile of papers that would overwhelm the executor. I’d like to put the documents in a three-ring binder with a table of contents and tabbed for the different sections. Is it legal to hole-punch these documents, either before or after they’re singed and notarized? Would that vary by state? I have never heard of any law that would invalidate documents that were otherwise valid because there are physical holes in the paper. Sometimes my clients make a copy of their documents, hole punch those, and put the copy in a binder, then put the originals in a safe deposit box or safe in their house. It’s great that you are trying to make things easier on your loved ones. Here’s a few other things you could put in the binder: a list of your passwords to online accounts; a list of your accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets; contact information for your heirs and beneficiaries; and a list of people that you work with, if any, such as tax preparers and financial advisors.
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Hello Liza, My husband and I need to update our wills, they are terribly out of date. Our dilemma is around the question of who should be Executor/Co-Executor of the estate. Obviously we would be the executors of one an others estates, however, if something were to happen to both of us, we need a third party Executor/Co-Executor. We have no obvious relatives, or even close friends that we feel could ask to be an Executor. We’ve understand that a law firm, bank, financial planner, etc.can act as an Executor (or co-Executor). Our question is, what is the financial obligation for doing so? Trust companies, trust departments of banks, and individuals, called professional fiduciaries, can serve as the executor of your estate. There’s no up front fee for nominating an institution or professional to serve in that capacity. They would charge the estate a fee for their services if they are appointed to serve after the death of the second of you. Often, these fees are a percentage of the estate. If your estate goes through probate, your executor is awarded statutory fees based on state law, which are usually a percentage of the value of the estate. Attorneys sometimes serve in this capacity, but, at least in the state where I practice (California) there are strict rules about doing so, because in the past unscrupulous lawyers wrote themselves into client’s documents to generate future fees. Financial advisors often cannot serve due to conflict of interest rules in their companies, but some can. I would advise you to ask your local bank or financial advisor what their fees would be for this service, or if they can recommend anyone in your area who could serve.