13 Necessities to Consider for Estate Planning
Estate planning protects your hard-earned assets in the event of a severe injury or death. Just like building your career required a goal to move forward, you need a plan for your accumulated wealth. Since you worked so hard for it, you should have the say of where it goes.
Don’t leave it to chance.
13 Necessities to Consider for Estate Planning
1. Consult an Estate Attorney
Many estate attorneys offer to work with clients on all facets of estate planning. An attorney can help with a full investment and insurance plan as well. Prepare yourself ahead of time for any surprise problems that might occur in your life.
3 Tips You May Hear from an Estate Attorney
- Simplify your finances
- Open college funding accounts for your grandchildren
- Carry an emergency health and contact card in your wallet
2. Take Stock of What You Have
What items do you own? Of these items, what things are worth more than $100?
Make a list of your items that you have at home, such as jewelry, television sets, laptops, power tools, and vehicles. Knowing what you own can help you know how to create your estate plan.
List your other assets that might not be tangible. These items would include 401k plans, IRA assets, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and other insurance policies. You’ll want to know what types of numbers you will be working with when formulating your future plans.
3. Track Your Plastic and Your Memberships
Believe it or not, people forget about certain credit cards, loans, and memberships.
Creating a list can help ensure that everything is paid consistently. You’ll want to include auto loans, mortgages, home equity credit lines, school loans, or any other debts. Once a year, you may want to run a free credit report to make sure that everything is still healthy.
List Your Favorites Charities and Organizations
Your membership with certain groups, such as The American Legion, AAA Auto Club, or college group, should be recorded somewhere that is accessible. Check into what your membership offers. Some may even have accidental life insurance benefits. Be sure to list the charities that you particularly love to support.
4. Send Your Estate Administrator a Copy of Your Lists
Save the lists in a place that makes sense in your online files. The idea is for the list to be accessible if needed. Give a dated and signed copy to your estate administrator as well as your spouse. Then, keep another in a safety deposit box.
5. Determine Your Beneficiaries
Review your retirement plan and life insurance. When you die, whoever was listed as a beneficiary in these separate accounts will be considered the beneficiary. At this point, a will makes no difference and the name on these plans will take precedence.
6. Choose a Good Executor
Naming a person to be responsible for your will and all your assets can help ensure that your wishes are carried out. The executor distributes your property, files appropriate taxes, and processes all claims from creditors. If you choose to hire a lawyer for this role, they will be paid from the assets in your estate. Be sure to agree on how the compensation will be determined.
7. Name a Power of Attorney (POA)
Aging often includes health problems as well as loss of mental clarity. Choosing a power of attorney ensures that someone you trust makes decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. Not only will this individual make health decisions for you, but they will manage your billing and investments.
Springing POA vs. Durable POA
Two different kinds of powers of attorney exist. Most people choose to use a “springing” power of attorney, which means that the POA does not have power until certain criteria are met, such as incapacitation. Meanwhile, “durable” power of attorney takes effect immediately.
8. Write Your Will
Most legal professionals agree that if you are over the age of 18 that you should have a will. After all, a will lays out how you want your assets to be distributed to the heirs. This also ensures that your stuff goes to who you want it to go. Send a copy of your will to your estate administrator.
Questions to Consider
- Who will inherit your assets?
- Do you need to choose a guardian for your children or pets?
- If you haven’t chosen an executor, who do you think would be best?
9. Create a Living Will
When tragedy strikes and you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to illness or injury, you need to have an advance medical directive or a living will. Not only will this lay out your wishes for your medical care, but it will act as a guide for your Power of Attorney. You might not be able to communicate, but your living will express your desires. Send your estate administrator a copy of your living will.
10. Consider a Trust.
Trusts are stereotypically deemed for rich people. However, this is just not true. A trust allows you to set the terms of how and when your assets are distributed after your death. Benefits include reduced estate and gift taxes as well as less delay and cost for actual distribution. Finally, a trust can protect your assets from lawsuits and creditors.
11. Set up Transfer on Death (TOD) Designations
To avoid losing your money through a court process called probate, speak with your bank about the feature of transferring your assets upon death. Probate is the process by which money is handled when a person didn’t take the necessary and legal steps to assign its care to someone else. Ensure your assets and bank savings go where you want them to after you pass away.
12. Discuss Your Plans with Your Heirs
Speaking with your family, friends, and children about your will and future plans prevents squabbles after your death. Everyone will be clear on what you have prepared. This also cuts down on shock or unpleasant surprises for your family.
13. Every Two Years, Review Your Paperwork
One constant about life is change. Therefore, you can’t just one-and-done your estate planning. You will need to revisit the information, review, and update. After all, a lot can change in a year. Family members may join or leave the family, and you want to be sure that your current spouse is in the paperwork.
After you’ve spent time and money on crafting the ideal estate plan, you need to ensure that the right people have access to it. Nothing can be more frustrating for family when they know you created an estate plan, but they cannot find it. When that happens, your estate may end up in probate, which means none of your well-thought-out plans will occur.