When beginning the estate planning process, there are a number of things to consider. Estate planning is not one-size-fits-all and it involves more than just the preparation of a will. To begin the process, below is an overview for your “to-do” list:
- Prepare a list of your assets, how they are owned (i.e. sole, joint tenancy, tenants in common, in trust) and what the market value is. Check all deeds to see how real estate is owned. On your list of assets, include account numbers, type of account, contact information, etc.
- Check all beneficiary designations and make sure they line up with your estate planning objectives. (This includes IRAs, retirement plans, annuities, life insurance, etc.)
- Prepare a list of all online or digital accounts with usernames, linked email address, passwords, and special questions so that someone can access them if needed.
- Articulate how you feel about end-of-life decisions and long-term health care. Give some thought to life support, donation of organs, and burial wishes.
- Complete a Durable Financial Power of Attorney and Advanced Care Directive with an attorney. The person you select as your agent (and alternate agent) is the key to making things go smoothly if you are not able to make decisions for yourself.
- Determine if you need a will or a trust or both and make sure they are up to date. Your family situation, financial situation, health status, and laws change frequently. Make sure your documents reflect your current wishes.
- Write a Tangible Personal Property Memo, if applicable. This is a handwritten list of who gets your personal property (like jewelry or artwork) when you die. It can be updated without having to update your whole will. This list won’t apply to financial assets or real estate.
- If you have children, recognize that the things that are important to you may not be to them. Try not to force your preferences on their behaviors and choices.
- Determine who will be your child/ren’s guardian in the event of death or incapacity. (Temporary appointment with a Parental Delegation of Authority, or a permanent recommendation in your will after death.)
- Consider the effect of tax laws on your estate and adjust accordingly.
- Make sure that the ownership of your assets allows them to flow to the people or organizations you have chosen.
- Make sure there is cash available to pay your creditors, your funeral costs, and immediate administrative expenses after death.
- Discuss with your attorney the need for Long Term Care Planning and how that might be funded, including considering Long Term Care Insurance where appropriate.
- Give consideration to charitable gifts and how those should be carried out.
- Discuss burial and funeral arrangements, make your choices regarding organ donation, and write down the information your survivors will need to write an obituary. Consider pre-paying for these.
- Make provisions for your business to continue to operate if you are incapacitated or you die.
- Make provisions for your pets to be cared for if you are incapacitated or die.
It is not expected that you know how to do all of these items on your own. Many require the guidance and preparation of professionals. Your estate planning attorney can help you navigate through the answers to some of these questions and guide discussion on them. You should start the conversation being prepared to discuss what you own, how you own it, and what you would like to see happen if you become disabled or die.
The information presented on this website is general in nature and not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship will exist with Jones, Kuriloff & Sargent, LLC unless we agree in writing after a personal consultation. Please contact us for a consultation on your particular situation.