Planning the distribution of your estate can be an intimidating task — it can be difficult for the uninitiated to sift through all the information to choose the best option for their particular circumstance. Of course, the biggest mistake would be to choose not to make the proper arrangements and leave your loved ones to sort through the property and pick up the pieces once you’re gone.
So, where do you begin? Of course, we would suggest starting by talking with an attorney who has experience setting up estate plans. There’s a ton of information on the internet, however, and it’s never a bad idea to walk into a meeting with a little research under your belt. Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps that you’ll be taking to plan your estate. This is intended to be a broad intro — in no way should this article replace a conversation with an experienced attorney.
10 steps to planning your estate:
1. Research life insurance. Life insurance is generally inexpensive and can cover debts, funeral arrangements, and estate taxes.
2. Learn about estate taxes. Estate taxes affect about .3% of us. In 2016, your estate will only be taxed if it is worth more that $5.45 million.
3. Make a will or living trust. Both documents specify who will get your property when you die, but each has advantages and disadvantages.
4. Draft a financial power of attorney. This document gives a person you specify control of your assets if you become incapacitated.
5. Create specific health care directives. A living will specifies your health care wishes should you become incapacitated.
6. Create a succession plan for your business. You can choose who will take over your business or specify a buyout plan.
7. Name a trusted adult to manage property that you leave minor children. This can be the same person that you name as your children’s guardian.
8. Name a beneficiary for bank accounts and retirement plans. This makes the account payable on death, so it can skip the probate process.
9. Cover expenses & funeral arrangements. Set up a payable-on-death account to cover expenses and specify whether you’d like to be buried or cremated.
10. Secure important documents. There are several documents that you’ll need to make available to your attorney-in-fact and your executor:
– Birth certificate
– Social security card
– Marriage certificates, divorce decrees
– Property titles, deeds, and mortgage information
– All insurance policy information
– All bank & investment account information
– All business agreement information
– Previous tax return information
– All debt & loan information
– A list of names & phone numbers of people to be notified in the event of your death
There’s a lot of ground to cover when preparing your estate, but every bit of effort is worth it. After all, you worked hard to build a fulfilling life for your loved ones and you can save them a lot of time, money and grief by making sure that you make the proper arrangements now. Qualified estate planning attorney can walk you through each step and guide you in some of the most important decisions of your life.