Estate Planning Checklist
What comes to your mind when thinking about estate planning? You might imagine spending a lot of time in an attorney’s office, huddled over piles of paperwork and immersed in legalese. But the truth is that estate planning doesn’t have to be challenging or time-consuming; with the right help, it can be easier and less expensive.
Estate planning involves more than just creating a will. Your plan will be carried out according to your wishes after death if you have considered all your assets.
All assets and wishes will be noticed by keeping written lists and informing your estate attorney where those lists are.
You can prevent those assets from passing through the will by naming beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and completing the transfer on death designations on other accounts.
A comprehensive estate plan considers your relatives and other loved ones in addition to your possessions and property. By making preparations now, you can lessen the future strain on your loved ones and ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Here is a list of steps you should take to ensure your Estate Planning is on the right track.
Step 1: List your possessions.
Nothing you own is regarded as part of your estate, no matter how modest. Knowing what you own and how to protect it best starts with taking stock of what you have.
Make a list of all of your assets, everything you own. Consider who you want to give them to as you begin. Include the cost of your house, other real estate, vehicles, and other tangible assets.
Assemble recent account statements from your brokerage, retirement, and bank accounts. Include any safe or safety deposit box locations and their contents.
Write down every insurance policy, noting the cash values and death benefits. List all debts, including mortgages, credit cards, and other obligations. It probably will be much bigger you had anticipated.
If you think of someone from whom you’d like to inherit the item after your passing, make notes as you go.
Step 2: Create a Will
You designate who you want to inherit specific possessions and assets in your will. This includes your tangible assets, such as your home and personal belongings, and your intangible assets, such as your bank and investment accounts. Beneficiaries are the people who receive your assets. They could be members of your family, close friends, or even meaningful nonprofit organizations.
Create a last will to specify who will inherit your possessions upon your passing. A guardian can be named in a last will for any minor children.
Step 3: Take a look at your retirement accounts
When you pass away, any accounts and policies listed with beneficiaries will go to them immediately. It is irrelevant how you specify the distribution of these accounts or policies in your trust or will. Priority will be given to the beneficiary designations connected to the retirement account.
For a current list of the beneficiaries you’ve chosen for each account, get in touch with your employer’s customer service department or the plan administrator. Check that the beneficiaries are accurate and listed precisely how you want to in each of these accounts.
Step 4: Start creating an estate plan.
Meet with an estate planning lawyer when you’re prepared to draft your will, financial and medical powers of attorney, and trust documents, if necessary.
Establishing a trust requires prompt funding. The agreement will only be applied if you do, and your assets might go to your intended beneficiaries.
Review and, if necessary, modify the beneficiaries on each investment account.
Make sure all assets you want to be part of the trust have new titles that reflect this ownership change and keep copies of all the necessary paperwork.
Step 5: Start creating an Instruction Letter.
A letter of instruction is an excellent way to make things easier for your family after you’ve passed away. Personal instructions that aren’t in your will can be provided for anything you want your loved ones to know.
You may already know how you want your obituary to be written. These are the kinds of things you can include in your instruction letter.
Step 6: Consider your estate tax liabilities.
Learn about the Internal Revenue Service’s estate tax rules, which change yearly. If your estate is close to that amount, you should consult an attorney or a tax professional to ensure everything is covered. You should also check to see if your state has any death or inheritance taxes that may apply to your estate—some states have a lower threshold amount than the federal government.
Step 7: Insurance policies and financial data
Keep all your insurance policy documents together, including those for life, health, auto, and home. You should also keep a list of all your financial accounts and the login information for each one. Examples are bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, loans, tax returns, pension plans, retirement benefits, and investment portfolios. This information could be stored in an Excel spreadsheet or written in a notebook and kept with your estate planning documents.
After considering these estate planning fundamentals, you’ll be ready to get your affairs in order. If you’re still unsure where to begin, please contact us; we’re here to assist you with the process and clear up any confusion.
Procrastination is the estate planner’s worst enemy. Take in consideration that poor planning can lead to family feuds, assets falling into the wrong hands, lengthy court battles, and excess money paid in estate taxes. So choose a time to begin.