Having a well constructed estate plan will ensure that you can control what happens to your possessions and subsequently your heirs, instead of it being left up to the state. However, the operative term here is well constructed, meaning properly thought out and including all necessary documents. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the process, guaranteeing you construct a complete estate plan that can easily be followed in the event of your death, or if you fall ill. To get you started though, we have compiled the following estate planning checklist. By studying this checklist, you will know what you still need to do to create a complete estate plan:
Review Debts And Possessions
One of the first steps in creating your estate plan is to know what you own and what you owe. You might assume everyone knows this, but you would be surprised how many people don’t actually have this information. In addition, even if you do personally know this information, your family and friends need to be able to easily find this information. Therefore, it’s a great idea to simply list your assets and your debts in one location.
Patient Advocate Agreement
The second element of an estate plan is a living will, or a healthcare or medical directive. This document will give the person of your choice the power to make your medical decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated in some way. Make sure the person whom you name in your living will or medical directive knows your wishes with regard to your medical care. For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive artificially in the event you are gravely injured, make sure they know this fact.
A Power of Attorney
If you are unable to sign your own documents for a medical reason, you need to give someone you trust the power to do so on your behalf. This person will also be able to sell your assets if need be, to sign your tax returns, write checks from your account and the like. Again, make sure that whomever you give this power understands how you want your affairs to be handled. Also, make sure they are trustworthy. Usually, for older individuals, a power of attorney is given to an adult child in the event a spouse is no longer alive to make such decisions.
An Updated Will
Perhaps the most important element of a well constructed estate plan is your up-to-date will. This document will give you the ability to direct your family and friends, even after your death. You can outline who you want your possessions to go to, what you want sold, and the order in which you want all this completed. A will also allows you to name a personal representative. This person will be the point person. The one who is responsible to distribute your assets and pay all your debts paid. There are no official rules in terms of who is named your personal representative. You can make that choice. Usually, though, the oldest adult child is named the personal representative of an older person’s will.
Trusts aren’t part of every estate plan, because they aren’t always necessary. A trust is in essence a directive orchestrating where your assets will go and how they should be managed after your death.
A trust can also prevent the need for court proceedings after your death. There are some instances where a trust is a good idea, such as the following for example:
- You have remarried and want to ensure the children from your previous marriage get what is left of your possessions after your second spouse’s death.
- You have a disabled relative you want to ensure is taken care of properly.
- You desire another person, besides an heir, to manage your money and other assets.
- You would like to avoid the probate process.
- You are wealthy enough that what you are leaving your heirs will require them to pay federal estate taxes.
- If you aren’t sure a trust is for you, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine if it’s needed or not.
Look Over All Beneficiary Forms And Correct Mistakes if Present
Regularly check who is named as your beneficiary on various documents. For example, your company’s 401K plan, an IRA or a savings account. When opening these accounts, you are asked to name a beneficiary. Some people forget to update these though after losing spouses or going through a divorce. It’s also a good idea to make sure that someone is named at all, as sometimes this step is skipped. If you don’t name someone, then the money in these accounts will have to go through probate after your death, which of course takes time. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure the beneficiaries on each of your accounts are up to date.
Contact us today for help constructing an estate plan that will ensure your estate is handled the way you desire in the event of your death or injury.