March 1, 2011

Book Review: The ABA Checklist for Family Heirs: A Guide to Family History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes

Review by Charles A. Collier Jr.

This book published in early 2011 by the Senior Lawyers Division of the ABA is for you, your family, and your clients. It provides textual explanations for personal and family information, for all types of financial information, and for estate planning and final wishes. It enables you, with its numerous checklists, to organize pertinent information that will not only assist you in organizing your files and records but will enable family members and others to have ready access to your history, your family history, your financial situation, and your final wishes.

Most of us do not organize our vital information in any meaningful way. This book provides the tools to accomplish that organization. There is even a checklist of checklists you can complete to indicate completed checklists. Not all lists are applicable to every person. There is also a list of documents that you should obtain for ready reference, including birth certificates, divorce decrees, medical history, and Social Security benefits. An included CD-ROM, which enables you to reproduce various checklists to share with family or clients, enhances the value of this book.

Chapters 1 and 2 deal with your personal history, family history, and biography, your financial advisors such as accountants, attorneys, bankers, executors, insurance agents, investment advisors, and tax advisors, your medical professionals including primary care physicians and specialty physicians, and your service providers such as maintenance people, veterinarians, and property managers. It also includes a chart for your educational history, listing all the schools that you attended and your extracurricular activities. There is a chart for your detailed medication history. Also information about your pets, their type, species, coloring, date of birth, date of ownership, etc., can be included. Chapter 2 deals with your family history with information about citizenship, military history, spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters and their issue. Information about grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can be included.

The next few chapters of the book deal with financial information of various types. Chapter 3 is about insurance with checklists cover ing annuities, automo bile insurance, insurance disability, and long-term homeowners insur ance, life vehicle insurance, so on. Chapter 4 with various survivor benefits including such things pensions, plans, Social Security benefits, benefits, and compensation benefits. Chapter 5 deals tutions and contains forms to list certificates of deposit, checking accounts, credit union accounts, safe deposit boxes, savings accounts, savings bonds, among other things. Chapter 6 deals with investments such as bonds, money market funds, mutual funds, and stocks. Chapter 7 on real estate includes commercial property, condominiums, farmland, residence, timeshares, and more. Chapter 8 deals with other assets such as art, antiques, photography, other personal property, lawsuits and judgments, and other miscellaneous assets.

The last few chapters of the book deal with your estate planning issues and final wishes. Chapter 9, on wills, trust agreements, and other estate planning documents, provides appropriate checklists for those documents including the date of various documents, the named executor or trustee, the person to whom gifts have been made, and the basic provisions in a living trust. Chapter 10 deals with your final wishes including selection of the health care agent, possible organ donation, disposition of your body, funeral wishes, and burial or cremation wishes.

The author, Sally Balch Hurme, is a lawyer and senior project manager with the AARP Health Law Education Team. She is a nationally recognized expert on elder law issues and is frequently quoted in the national media and is a well-known writer and speaker.

This book is a very valuable addition to your personal library as well as your law library. The various forms on the CD-ROM can be of great assistance to you, members of your family, and to your clients.