Estate planning is a must these days – and it’s the smart thing to do to protect your assets and ease an already difficult time for your loved ones. But starting the process and executing it effectively can be a challenge. Making plans for distributing your money, home and other assets after you’re gone may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to address the topic so you and your loved ones are prepared.
Use this checklist to help you identify important documents and decisions for an organized estate.
- Write your will. You can draft a simple will using online software if your estate is straightforward and uncomplicated. However, if you have questions about protecting your assets, planning for estate taxes or handling unique concerns related to family dynamics, you may benefit from hiring an estate attorney to draw up your will. If you already have a will in place, review it to make sure it’s still in line with your wishes. Keep one copy of your will at home and one with the executor of your estate.
- Consider a trust. A trust can help you with more complex estate-planning goals that require additional steps or tax-efficient strategies. Advancial offers revocable family, trusts, living trusts, individual, non-entity grantors or trustees. Learn more about Advancial’s Trust Services designed to help preserve wealth and protect your financial future.
- Determine key roles. Select a person or people to be the executor of your estate and power of attorney. If you have children that are minors, decide who you want to name as the guardian of your children and custodian to oversee their financial assets.
- Plan for health care decisions. It can be helpful and ease the mind of loved ones to provide instructions and documentation allowing them to make key decisions if you become incapacitated. For example, you could draw up a living will or advance health care directive and designate a health care proxy. You may be able to obtain these forms from your health care provider or your state department on aging.
- Review beneficiaries. Make sure the beneficiary designations on all of your financial accounts and insurance policies are up to date. Check your beneficiaries on insurance policies, pensions, 401(k) or 403(b) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and annuities. Updating beneficiaries is especially important since these designations supersede your will instructions. An advisor at Advancial Investment Services can help review your investment portfolio and beneficiary designations.
- Create a personal balance sheet. Make a list of your assets (retirement accounts, life insurance, personal property, etc.) and liabilities (mortgage, credit cards and other loans).
- Organize personal and financial records. Store your important papers and legal documents in a safe place. This includes financial account information, insurance policies, Social Security card and Medicare information, original deed for your home, property tax statements, vehicle titles, tax returns and military discharge papers.
- Rent a safe deposit box. Protect your valuables in a fireproof safe at home or safe deposit box. Doing so gives you peace of mind knowing that your important documents are protected from fire, theft or loss. Be sure to tell the executor of your estate where you keep your important documents, the contents of your safe deposit box, how to access your safe or safe deposit box and what to do with it.
- Protect your digital identity. Your digital information lives on even after you pass away. Keep it secure by organizing your passwords and online records for someone you trust. There are secure, digital services that can compile your passwords so that an executor can access them if needed.
- Make a list of contacts. Include financial advisor, insurance agents, tax and estate-planning lawyers and other important contacts.
- Provide instructions for valuables. Having a clear plan for passing along family heirlooms and other possessions can be a helpful guide for your loved ones. Draw up an inventory of valuable and meaningful items and who you intend to inherit them.
- Clarify end-of-life planning. Specify your preferences for cremation, burial, funeral services and other final wishes. If you’ve done preplanning, make sure your family has access to the contract.
Start Planning Now
Take some time to focus on your estate plan to avoid surprises later on. The professionals with Advancial Trust Services can work with you to address your concerns, document your decisions and navigate next steps in your estate plan.