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But once I sign this book-length pile of paperwork what do I do? Who do I give access? How do I keep it organized? Are there instructions...somewhere?

We opted to have our attorney keep the originals, and I keep copies of everything in the safe.

DD is Executrix after DH/me, and she knows where everything is, who our attorney is and how to contact him, and who our Financial Planner is.

If I or DH died tomorrow where would I start? If we both died where would the kids start? If all of us died who would dive in and handle stuff? Is that the "Representative"? Trying to be responsible but confused....

Your attorney would be able to help settle the estate, and would guide you through the process for your state. I would recommend that you ask him/her these questions so that you have a general idea of how it works.

Also, if you have created a trust, make sure to fund the trust. In our case, that meant just retitling all the accounts, and it was something that I was able to do fairly easily.

It seems to me that your kids are college age, so I would expect one or both of them to be your back-up Executor, so you want them to know this, and to know who your attorney is. I'm not sure where your nephew that you mentioned fits in.

I was the back-up Executrix for my best friend, and she did give me a copy of their wills so that I would have it. Their daughter is a bit older than my kids, and their wills have not changed in all these years, so I am actually about to pass all that paperwork along to her.

We've had to settle estates before, and they were messy because Medicaid was involved, so maybe I'm more comfortable with the process because of that. But it's not actually difficult.
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