by Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Texas AgriLife Extension
What on earth is a flight plan and why do people need one? The name is derived from the song “I’ll fly away.” You know the one… “I’ll fly away, oh, glory, I’ll fly away. When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.”
A flight plan is simply a folder that contains important documents, key information that heirs may need to access upon someone’s death, hospitalization, or other incapacitation. Taking the time to gather up important documents and critical information is one of the best gifts that a person can give to his or her family.
What should be included in the flight plan? Here are some ideas to help get started:
- Current estate planning documents (will, powers of attorney, advanced directive)
- Retirement plan information (IRA/401K/Pension)
- Copies of any life insurance policies
- Copies of health insurance policies
- Burial plot location and funeral instructions
- Email, account, computer, and phone passwords
- Bank account information (where accounts are held, account numbers)
- Safety deposit box information (location and who can access)
- Lock codes or combinations (gate locks, gun safe, in-home safes, barn or buildings)
- Payment information such as payee, due dates, and payment amounts for important debts (i.e. mortgage, land payments, operating notes)
- Identification documents: copies of driver’s licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, military discharge papers.
- Documents related to real estate: deeds, titles, registrations, leases, royalty documents, surveys, water permits
- List of assets (personal property and all business assets)
- List of livestock, stored crops, and marketing contacts
- Crop insurance policies and FSA contracts
- List of all key business relationships (attorney, accountant, banker, insurance agent, commodity buyers)
Once this information is gathered, it needs to be put somewhere safe. It is also critical to let someone else know where this information is located and to ensure that someone has access. For example, if the flight plan is going to be stored in a safety deposit box, it is important to ensure that at least two other people know the location of the plan and that those people have access to the safety deposit box on the signature cards.
I realize that this may seem like a daunting project. It is time-consuming and it is never enjoyable to think about one’s own death. By taking the time to prepare a flight plan, a person empowers family members to act when something happens without having to search for information. Additionally, having this information collected will be helpful for additional steps in the estate planning process and will likely allow more efficient use of an attorney’s time and the client’s money when it comes time to sit down and make an estate plan and draft documents like wills, trusts, LLCs, or other necessary documents.