Let’s face it:
Estate planning isn’t most peoples’ idea of fun.
Motivating yourself to do anything related to your own death is never going to be easy!
Throw in the confusion and cost involved and it’s no surprise over 50% of Americans have only a basic plan in place. It’s one of those things you know you should do but never get around to it.
Having an estate planning checklist to guide you through the process can make a difference.
Indeed, there are never any guarantees in life. You can be fit and healthy one day and critically-ill the next! That uncertainty means everybody, however old they might be, needs an estate plan in place.
You know that if the worst is to happen, then your affairs are in order. Your loved ones will know exactly what to do and be well looked after too.
Want some advice on how to do it?
Read on for 7 essential steps to planning your estate properly.
- Take Stock
The first thing to do is to take stock of everything you own.
Knowing the assets at your disposal is a key first step to figuring out what will happen to them!
It’s worth noting how many people assume they don’t have enough stuff to justify this process. A quick look through your home might soon dispel that notion though!
You’d be surprised how easy it is to acquire tangible assets (physical things such as cars, furniture, and real estate) and intangible assets (think cash, insurance policies, and savings accounts, etc). You might have a lifetime of things of which to take inventory.
Go through them all and assess their value. From there, you stand a better chance of distributing everything fairly among your loved ones.
- Organize External Valuations
Knowing the value of particular assets isn’t always easy.
Think about your house.
When was the last time you checked its financial worth? You might have no idea how much money you could get for it. Arranging for an expert valuation will provide such answers.
Don’t stop with the house, though. Go through everything and anything you possess of apparent value. Ascertain their worth through outside valuations to attain a better understanding of your estate.
- Seek Protection
This entire process is, more often than not, about making sure your family is taken care of in the event of your death.
Your tangible and intangible assets are a key part of this. The last thing you want is to leave behind a confused and disorganized estate (or, even worse, no financial support at all).
That’s why the next step is to protect your estate and loved ones.
For starters, think about organizing life-insurance. In the event of your death, your family would receive a pay-out to help them through the difficult times to come. It might be time to increase your life-insurance payments to ensure they get a sufficient amount.
Other considerations might include detailing who you want to care for your kids. Having a written record of this will ensure they get proper care from somebody you trust! It’ll also prevent legal issues and familial disputes.
- Remember Liabilities
Many people don’t just leave assets behind when they die.
They might also have various liabilities that need handling.
Liabilities include things like outstanding loans that still need repaying. These don’t just disappear! The last thing you want is for a loved one to be lumped with your debt upon your death.
Think carefully about how you want to handle such liabilities.
Start, though, by taking stock of them all. Look into your debts (be it credit card balances, car loans, or anything else) and make a note of all remaining balances. From there, it’s a matter of detailing how you want them paid for when you die.
- Set Your Legal Directives
Directives are, essentially, instructions that will be enforced upon your death.
It’s your job to set them while you’re both alive, healthy and in your right mind.
There are different ones to think about! For instance, medical care directives layout your instructions in medical situations where you can no longer make the decision.
Imagine that you end up in a coma. Your directive would have outlined, for instance, long term care planning and/or whether you wanted to be resuscitated or not.
You might assign somebody power of attorney for your finances as well.
Here, someone else handles any legal or monetary issues that arise while you’re unavailable. They’ll handle your assets and sort out any bills, debts, and taxes on your behalf.
- Set and Check Your Beneficiaries
Make sure your assets end up where you want them to!
This is where reviewing beneficiary forms comes into play.
Think about your 401(k) and any insurance policies that you have in place. Many of them will have beneficiaries that you listed in the past, who’d receive the money in the event of your death.
Review those beneficiaries every year or so to ensure assets go where you want them to. After all, people change and life happens! Prior beneficiaries might make no sense in your current context.
Likewise, make sure those beneficiary boxes are all filled in! Leaving them blank puts the decision in the hands of your state and its laws.
- Think Tax and Consider Professional Help
Take the time to think about your tax obligations too.
Large estates are subject to significant taxes! Ensure you have a solid grasp of how much your estate is worth (post-tax) and who gets what when you die.
Feeling confused? Well, we don’t blame you. This can feel like a daunting process when you’re starting from scratch.
Consider working with a professional in this realm for help. For a fee, they’ll guide you through this vital process and ensure everything is set up as you want.
Remember This Estate Planning Checklist
Planning your estate is a bit like washing up.
It’s an essential task that nobody ever wants to do! Hopefully, though, this estate planning checklist will help you get it done anyway.
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