As you travel on the journey of life, you will inevitably build up an estate that one day your loved ones will inherit. How and what they will receive depends on your preparation. An estate plan acts like a roadmap for your heirs by providing directions on how to settle your financial and personal affairs while ensuring your wishes are being honored. Taking the time to educate yourself about the estate planning process now can mean the difference between clarity and confusion after you pass. Below is an estate planning checklist with tips that I have found to be helpful.
___Create A Will: A will lets you dictate who you want to receive your assets, possessions and properties, in addition to allowing you to name guardians for your children.
___Make a List of Your Current Assets and Debts: Provide an easy reference for your surviving family members with a list that shows all banking, retirement and investment accounts with their numbers, locations and values. Include debt from credit cards or loans.
___Review Account Ownership: Review who is actually listed on your property deeds and vehicle ownership forms. Making a spouse or other family member a co-owner now can help facilitate the transfer of assets easily while helping them avoid probate.
___Update Beneficiary Designations: Many accounts, such as those for retirement and insurance policies, transfer to the named beneficiaries immediately upon your death. It is critical that you review these beneficiaries annually to ensure the proper person is inheriting your wealth.
___Establish an Advanced Health Care Directive and Living Will: An advanced health care directive and a living will are legal documents that identify who you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and detail end-of-life treatment preferences.
___Consider Forming a Trust: A trust is a separate legal entity that you create with the help of an attorney in which your property is held and then transferred to the trustees.
___Name a Financial Power of Attorney: This individual is someone you name to act on your behalf to make financial decisions should you be unable to do so.
___Make a Copy of Important Documents: Make copies of your will, trust, real estate deeds, insurance policies, investment accounts and other legal documents and keep them in a safe place. It is important for others, such as your spouse or executor of your estate, to know where these documents are stored.
___Communicate Your Plan with Your Loved Ones: Lastly, let your heirs know about your wishes for your final arrangements and what charities or causes mean the most to you and whether you would like to donate to any of them.
Estate planning is a complex process with many factors to consider. Contact me with any questions you may have or let me know if you’d like to begin mapping out your own estate plan today.