Estate planning can be a daunting task, but it can have a massive impact on you and your loved ones. Nevertheless, it’s an important part of life and should be taken seriously to protect your family. When you control your estate plan, you are in control of how your assets are allocated to others after death. By taking steps to plan, you can ensure that your estate is aligned with your exact wishes.
We’re all going to die at some point, and during our lifetimes, we may go through several life changes that affect our estate plans. For this reason, estate planning should be an ongoing process as opposed to a one-time event. If you don’t have an estate plan, it’s a good idea to reach out to a professional who can help you draft one.
We understand there are many things to consider, and it can be overwhelming at times. That’s why we’ve developed the ultimate checklist to help anyone begin to plan for their estate. We intend to provide you with the resources to help plan your estate, so you can feel confident that everything will be taken care of to the exact degree that you desire.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning refers to the process of arranging or preparing for your assets and property after you die. It’s to ensure that when you pass on, your assets and property will go where you want them to go and not end up someplace else. For example, if you have children from a previous marriage, you might want your assets to be divided between both your spouse and your children.
In addition to ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes, estate planning also includes making sure that you have a health care proxy and durable power of attorney in place. This ensures that if you cannot make decisions for yourself, your chosen health care proxy can do it on your behalf. It also gives you the power to decide who will manage your financial affairs for you if you cannot do so.
Now, let’s dive into some of the estate planning steps you can take to get your affairs in order.
Here’s Your Estate Planning Checklist
- Create an inventory of all your assets and their values. When creating your estate plan, it’s essential to know what you own and what it’s worth. This inventory will include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, home(s), car(s), and personal property (jewelry, antiques, furniture), for example. By doing this, you can get a better idea of your estate’s worth and be best prepared for distribution decisions.
- Deeply consider the needs of your family. Discuss estate planning with them and make sure you understand what is important to them. Taking their wishes into account can be crucial for how estate assets are distributed. You can also create a family estate plan to ensure you are all on the same page. By understanding these needs, you will be better suited to consider whether you need a bigger life insurance policy to support your family.
- Create an official will. This is the most crucial estate planning document. Your last will and testament provides instructions on how your estate should be distributed, which can include beneficiaries for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, property, and more. Without a will, your estate may be subject to lengthy court battles that can result in assets being distributed in a way that you would not want. While there are many essential things to put in your will, there are also just as many things you should never include. Check out our other blog to learn more about those items you should avoid.
- Determine your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries receive the estate and any assets left behind. They can be anyone you choose to include, such as friends, family members, trusts, charities, or other meaningful relationships. It’s important to have beneficiaries in place so that estate assets are distributed according to your wishes.
- Create a trust to manage your estate assets for the benefit of others. For example, you can set up a trust that will help protect estate assets from estate taxes or creditors. You can also use a trust to protect the assets of minors, unborn children, and disabled individuals who are unable to handle estate assets on their own. To learn more about trusts, this recent blog details the most common types of trusts you should consider.
- Name someone to be your agent under a power of attorney. An estate plan can be complicated, so having an agent under a power of attorney makes estate planning more manageable. This individual will act on your behalf to help manage your plan and ensure that everything is taken care of. Choosing an agent can be difficult, but it’s essential to choose someone you trust to manage estate assets and make decisions on your behalf.
- Ask your doctor about advanced directives, such as a do-not-resuscitate decision. Having an advanced directive ensures that your estate plan is legally protected and prevents the need for court decisions. This will also save family members from having to make these difficult decisions. When it comes to medical care, estate planning can help reduce family conflict to ensure everyone moves forward exactly as you would want if you could make the direction yourself.
- Take time to review your estate plan regularly. You want to make sure it still reflects your estate plan goals. In addition, as life changes, you may need to update the terms of your plan to reflect these changes.
As you can see, estate planning is complicated and requires a lot of thought to ensure you are covering all your goals. By keeping track of these estate planning tips using the checklist, estate planning will be easier to handle and less stressful.
If you have any questions, estate planning lawyers can help you make decisions. Feel free to connect with us at Huber Fox Trust and Estate Law to receive more information about estate planning tips.