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Creating an estate plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following an estate planning checklist and working with an experienced attorney, getting a plan in place for your future is a lot simpler than you might expect.
The 5 Basic Estate Planning Steps
Here are five estate planning steps everyone should have on their checklist when working on their estate plan.
1. Identify Your Goals
What do you want to accomplish with your estate plan? Maybe you want to make sure you have some assets set aside that you can leave to a charity you love, or maybe you have young children and your number one priority is ensuring they are well taken care of. Whatever your specific goals are, take a little time to sit down and write them all out.
2. Take Inventory
Before determining who gets what, you need to have a detailed list of all of your assets as well as all of your liabilities. Make a list of everything with your name on it - this includes bank accounts, credit cards, property deeds, student loans, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc.
3. Determine Who Will Be Involved
Throughout your estate plan, you will need to designate different people as beneficiaries, trustees, guardians, and to other roles. You will want to think carefully about who you want to inherit your assets, who you trust to care for your children, and who will handle your affairs after you pass away.
4. Create the Necessary Documents
An estate plan doesn’t take effect unless it is correctly documented. There are several different estate planning documents that all serve different purposes. You should always work with an estate planning attorney in order to make sure you have all of the necessary documents in place, and that all of these documents are created correctly.
5. Update Regularly
An estate plan will not update automatically if something in your life changes, so you need to be sure to update your plan after any major life event. If you get married, get divorced, have children, purchase a new property, open a money market account, or any make any other significant changes to your financial picture, you need to make sure that your estate plan is updated to reflect these changes.
4 Estate Planning Documents You Need to Know About
No two people will have identical estate plans, because no two people have exactly the same situation. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to take you through an estate planning checklist and make sure you have everything in place. Here are a few of the primary documents that most people should include in their estate plan.
A living will is a document that outlines your wishes for end of life medical care. People often confuse living wills with wills, but they are two entirely different documents. Because of this confusion, living wills are often referred to as advance medical directives. In your living will, you will provide instructions for how doctors should treat you in case you are unable to express these wishes yourself at the time (such as if you are on life support).
Last Will and Testament
Also commonly referred to as simply a “will”, a person’s last will and testament details their last wishes when it comes to their assets and their dependents. Your last will and testament is where you note who should inherit your assets without a designated beneficiary (such as property, bank accounts, etc) as well as who will be responsible for continuing the care of your dependents.
A revocable trust is a trust that is set up during your lifetime which you have the ability to change the terms of. A revocable living trust allows you to put your assets into the ownership of the trust. One benefit of establishing a trust is that any assets held in the trust will be able to skip probate in the event of your death.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney allows you to designate another person the power to legally make decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation. It is important to note that regular PoAs are no longer valid if you become incapacitated which is why it is important to specifically create a durable power of attorney.
Why You Need An Estate Plan
In the event of your death, if you pass away without an estate plan, the courts will determine the allocation of your assets (and who will care for your minor children if you have them) without any regard to your wishes. If you want to make sure your loved ones are well cared for and that your assets are distributed exactly the way you want them to be, then you need an estate plan.
Get Help From an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you are just getting started on your estate plan, you should reach out to an estate planning attorney right away. It is never too early to start preparing for your future. Here at Elder Needs Law, we will walk you through each step of our estate planning checklist, making sure you have everything in place. Don’t wait - schedule a consultation today.