The Key Keeper

The following personal story was the inspiration behind Emerson’s Key Keeper:

The Importance of a Well-Organized Estate: A Personal Story
By Brad Gardner

Brad & Scott GardnerIn late 2008, my 50 year old brother Scott passed away quite unexpectedly.  He was divorced and financially independent as the president and owner of a small manufacturing company.  In his 40s he completed an estate plan, including a will and trust to benefit his only child, so at the time of his sudden passing, by all appearances one would have thought his estate was in order.

The complicated events that followed his death were a clear indication his estate was NOT in order and we were left without instructions for honoring his financial and personal wishes.  For the surviving family members settling these issues proved difficult, cumbersome and costly.  To begin, I had no idea I was the assigned executor until the family attorney read the will the day after he died.  Without any direction or instruction I began trying to gather the necessary documents and information to assume the role as my brother had requested.

The most difficult and costly challenge was seeking evidence of life insurance policies, and then resolving the issue of policy beneficiaries.  There was no record of insurers, amounts or even the physical location of the documents.  As we suspected, he had a keyman insurance policy through his company that provided the orderly transaction of the company stock; however, the situation with his personal life insurance policies proved much more difficult.

After days of searching we located his personal policies only to learn that the beneficiary of one important policy had not been updated to reflect the intentions of his will to fund child support payments.  Updating the policy after his death consumed six months, countless hours on the phone and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Over the years my brother had accumulated a number of “toys” – two sports cars, a boat and a Vermont ski lodge.  As was the case with his life insurance policies, there was no indication of the whereabouts of items related to these “toys”, such as titles and something as simple as keys.  We discovered my brother had a safety deposit box but its location and contents were a mystery for weeks.  Titles, ownership records and keys were all in assorted locations and many were never located.

The difficult situation created in the wake of my brother’s passing prompted me to share this personal story.  My hope is that it will bring awareness to the importance of an estate plan and clear, current record keeping.  Like my brother, many Emerson clients have multifaceted estate issues to consider such as life insurance policies, business matters, “toys” and second residences.  Although it is difficult and may seem premature to make certain your affairs are in order, it is tremendously thoughtful and helpful to your surviving family members.  Had my brother made record of these issues it would have resolved most of the unnecessary complications that ensued over the next twelve months.

I hope you will consider the importance of Emerson’s Key Keeper as you think about your estate.  We created the Key Keeper with the hopes that our clients would use it as a tool for organizing their personal and professional matters.  It serves as a template for recording family, financial, medical and other miscellaneous personal information, as well as suggesting additional areas of “key considerations” for you and your family to discuss.  We encourage you to spend some time reviewing the items covered in this document, as a refresher for yourself, and a favor for your family.  Please note:  The Key Keeper does not replace other important estate planning documents, and Emerson always recommends outside legal guidance in the completion of a comprehensive estate plan.  Also, we encourage you to store this document in a safe location due to the nature of the personal information recorded on it.  Please call us if you have questions.

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Bradford A. Gardner
President & Managing Director
Click here for an Adobe Writer version of the Key Keeper