So, you’ve made the decision to tackle your Estate Planning – Now What?
The following checklist addresses taking the first steps in your Estate Planning journey.
1) Figure Out What You Want.
It’s crucial to take time to identify what your Estate Planning goals are. Is your main goal to make sure your family is provided for after you pass? Do you want to donate a portion of your estate to your favorite charity? Perhaps, you want to establish a foundation or scholarship? The first step to getting Estate Planning done right is to set aside some time to figure out what you want to accomplish.
2) Take Stock of Your Assets.
It’s important to know what you have in order to then designate who will receive it when you pass. As you’re reviewing your assets, keep a running, itemized list of everything that has your name on it. These items include things you own, along with things you owe. Some of these items commonly include bank accounts, property deeds, retirement plans, insurance policies, student loans, investments, etc. Additionally, keep a separate list of personal property items you want to leave to specific individuals, such as family heirlooms, jewelry, furniture, photos, etc.
3) Carefully Choose Your Designees.
In most cases, proper Estate Planning involves selecting designees to fill a variety of roles – beneficiaries, guardians, representatives, executors, trustees, etc. You’ll need to carefully consider who you want to receive your assets, as well as who will have the power to act if you become incapacitated. Additionally, if you have minor children, you’ll want to designate someone you know and trust to care for them in the event of your death. Every designee role in Estate Planning is important and requires careful consideration.
4) Get the Right Documents.
Without the right documents, Estate Planning is nothing more than an unfinished plan. Even after these documents are drafted, they do not take effect until you make sure they’re properly executed. While there are numerous Estate Planning documents, only certain ones will apply to your estate and desired goals. So, it’s important to consult an Estate Planning Attorney to ensure you have the correct documents in place and that they’re executed properly.
5) Estate Planning Maintenance.
We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” When advising my Estate Planning clients, I amend that phrase to, “Life is what happens even after your estate is planned.” This means that even after you’ve completed steps 1–4 above, life events will occur requiring maintenance and/or updates to your existing Estate Planning documents. Purchasing new property, getting married or divorced, and starting a family are common examples of these types of life events. It’s important to understand that your Estate Planning documents will not automatically update to reflect these changes. In order to avoid the cost, confusion, and conflict associated with out-of-date Estate Planning documents, simply inform your Estate Planning Attorney about updates and/or changes you’d like to make.
As always, RAK Law is here to help you through this process!