Estate planning is the process of organizing and planning the dispersal of your property and money when you are deceased. This allows you to gift your assets to family and others under legal guidance. Taking stock of what you own is the first step in basic estate planning. 5 Basic Estate Planning Steps
Identify Your Goals
Plan what you want to achieve and make a list of your future beneficiaries. If you fail to have a plan, in the event of your death, it is left to the courts to decide who will get your assets. This is not an ideal situation, as many people die unexpectedly without a proper plan in place. Take an Inventory
- Have all your real estate property valued
- List the value of any jewelry and art and other valuable assets.
- Put all of your recent income statements into a folder
- Identify the location of any safety deposit boxes, and note what is in them. • Note any insurance policies
- List all of your liabilities/debts.
- Provide for any still dependant children to be financially cared for and educated Determine Personal Representative and other fiduciaries
Work with your estate planning attorney to determine who will activate your plan when the time comes. Make sure that no key beneficiaries have been left out, as they could contest the will later. Think about and ask yourself who should be responsible for distributing your assets.
Draw Up Documents
If you are planning to draw up a trust, make sure that it is fully funded immediately and don’t leave anything to chance. Be sure to review your list of beneficiaries to be sure that no one has predeceased you.
Questions to ask yourself include: Should you have financial power of attorney in case of illness or if dementia afflicts your last days? Should you have a living will? I Having all the correct documents in place will mean that you don’t have to think about it later. Sit down and explain what you have done to close family members and inform them of your wishes. This is just that: your wishes. They should be respected when you are no longer here to take care of them. Usually, when the family knows what your will contains, it gives them time to think about and accept your ultimate plan.
Regularly Update Your Plan
Your plan should be reviewed annually, and updated as required. There may be more children to add or the death of a spouse. An unexpected windfall may come your way and should be immediately added to the will document.
Any significant life changes should be reviewed and documents updated to reflect the changes.
Basic estate planning is important for everyone who owns anything and there would be very few people who don’t require help with their plan.
Before you start activating your plan it is a good idea to give it quite a lot of thought, and when you are ready call your attorney for help. This is a plan that requires the right advice.