1st Aug 2017
Estate planning can seem like a daunting task. Not only do you have to make plans to protect your family after your death, but you also need to ensure that all the proper paperwork and documentation are in place. This estate planning checklist will help you keep track of all the necessary steps in your estate planning process.
- Consider A Living Trust
Most people simply make a will and call it a day. However, if you want to protect your assets after your death, or in the event should you become incapacitated, a living trust is extremely beneficial. Not only does it help reduce estate taxes, it also eliminates the probate process for your relatives. If you choose a revocable living trust, you are still able to make changes while you are still alive. After your demise, all properties and assets are then transferred to the person or persons whom you designated as your trustee(s).
- Select A Power of Attorney
One of the most important steps in estate planning is designating Power of Attorney. You can choose a durable power of attorney for both healthcare and finances. With a financial power of attorney, the person whom you designate, or your agent, will handle all of your finances. A health care power of attorney is someone whom you have designated to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
- Outline Your Healthcare Directives
Once you have selected a healthcare power of attorney, you need to plan your healthcare directives. This includes details such as if you wish to set a “do not resuscitate” order in place or any other course of action you wish to be carried out should you become physically or mentally unable to fend for yourself.
- Choose Your Beneficiaries
Of course, you need to designate your beneficiary for your will, living trust, insurance policies, and so forth. You will need to file the proper paperwork to make sure all of this information is legal and binding. If you arrange so that your accounts are “payable on death” directly to your beneficiaries, they will be able to avoid the probate process. Make sure you have all the required details for your benefices such as social security numbers, birth dates and other pertinent information.
- Plan for Your Dependents
You need to appoint a legal adult to handle any property or money that is designated for your minor children and/or dependents. You can select the same person whom you have chosen as their legal guardian in your will, or choose someone else if you wish. Also, make sure that if any of your dependents have special needs such as medical conditions, you have included any special instructions/details in your will and/or living trust.
- Select Your Insurance Plans
If you don’t already have a life insurance policy, now is the time to do so. This will ensure that all of your debts and financial obligations are covered in the event that you become disabled or at the time of your death. You can also choose home-owners, auto, and disability insurance plans if you have not already done so.
- Plan for Funeral Expenses
You should make your wishes known what happens to you after your demise, including organ donation, and how you wish your body to be disposed (burial or cremation). Also, you can set up a funeral account payable upon death to cover your funeral and burial expenses. This will save your family a lot unnecessary time and grief after your death.
- Write Your Will
A last will and testament is a legal and binding document which handles any dependents and property guidelines. You would also choose your legal guardian for any dependents, as well as the executor of your estate.
- Devise A Business Plan
If you are the sole proprietor of your business, you must have a succession plan in place in the event of your death. Also, if you are a co-owner in a business, you need to set a buyout agreement in place, which will transfer your stock holdings, etc to one of your partners or a designated beneficiary. This will save a lot of legal hassle after your passing.
- Store Your Documents in A Safe Place
Once you have your estate plan in place, you need to store it somewhere where you know it will be safe. Make sure that all the proper documentation is included, and that the executor of your estate and/or your trustee have access to it after your death, such as a safety deposit box. You should include the following documents:
- Real estate deeds
- Bank account information
- Mutual fund information
- Certificates for stocks, bonds and annuities
- Insurance and retirement policies
- Information for IRAs, 401k’s, and so forth
- Any detailed information on funeral arrangements and so forth
- Any other important documentation
If you have any questions or concerns on how to properly carry out your estate plan checklist, be sure to contact Tompkins Law at 1-714-385-0044. Our staff will gladly help you with any issues as we know this process can be quite overwhelming. Call us for a free and confidential consultation!