Estate planning can be a difficult topic for many but without an estate plan, your loved ones can be left with very difficult and expensive decisions to make. Being prepared for this inevitability is the best gift you can give those you love. Here is a checklist to help you get started. We highly encourage you to work with an Estate Planning Attorney to make sure everything is covered and your family is protected.
Identify Your Assets: Make sure to include any real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, business interests and physical assets (cars, homes, boats, RVs, property, art, collectibles).
Your Desires: This step is usually the hardest but it's also the most important. It's time to think about the people in your life and identify roles so the courts don't need to make personal decisions for you.
Name a Personal Representative (also called an executor) - who do you trust most to carry out your wishes?
Pick a Guardian - Do you have young kids or a pet that will need to be cared for after you are gone?
Choose a Power of Attorney (Financial) - Who do you want to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are not able?
Choose a Health Care Proxy (Medical) - Who do you want to make health decisions on your behalf if you are not able?
Name Your Beneficiary Designations - Who do you want to receive your money after you die? In the event of a simultaneous death, do you have contingent beneficiaries listed? Make sure any brokerage accounts have a Transfer on Death designation established to avoid probate.
Create A Will: Work with an Estate Planning Attorney or make a Will online. Your will is a key part of your estate plan and it will cover all of the roles outlined above. Your will needs to be signed in front of two non-related witnesses and notarized. Make sure your trusted contacts know the location of the document so they can access it when needed.
Consider a Trust: Your Estate Planning Attorney can help you determine if you should set-up and fund a Trust.
Draft a Letter of Instruction for Executor and Family: This document is very valuable and provides the executor with the location of your estate planning information. This letter can also include contact information for relatives and friends as well as your desires for burial, funeral ceremonies and organ donation.
Review and update your Estate Plan: Once your Estate Plan is finished, the hard work is done - good job! It's important to continue to review and update your Estate Plan as needed when your situation or current laws change.
Please know we are here as a resource and happy to answer any questions you may have. We will gladly provide you a trusted referral should you need help choosing an estate planning attorney.