6 Tips for Planning an Estate
If you are planning an estate, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Estate planning is a complicated process that requires a lot of forethought. A strong estate plan provides specific directives for all of your assets, guardianship wishes, and much more. Lots of factors need to be considered in order to allocate assets properly and sufficiently. Read on for 6 tips for planning an estate.
1. Work with an Attorney
One of the most critical elements of estate planning is finding a good wills and estates attorney. Do some research, and ask around for recommendations. Working with an experienced, patient, understanding attorney who listens to your questions and concerns and provides all of the information you need is the best way to ensure you have a strong estate plan in place. You should feel comfortable speaking openly with your attorney and develop a collaborative relationship.
2. Document Everything
Once you have chosen an attorney, you can begin putting the important documents together. Filing the proper documentation for a legal estate plan can be complicated, so your attorney can help with this. Your plan should include the following:
- Last will and testament – Your will is one of the most important parts of your estate plans. It should designate your beneficiaries and executors and outline your intentions for your assets and property. If you have kids, it should also identify guardians for them.
- Healthcare power of attorney – This document designates a person who is able to make health decisions for you.
- Durable financial power of attorney – This document assigns your financial decisions to a person if you are unable to make them yourself.
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release – This form enables named individuals to access your healthcare information.
You will need to gather various documents related to financial data, assets, and more.
3. Meet with Your Executor
Choosing an executor is a major decision. The person you select will be responsible for ensuring your wishes are met and your assets distributed accordingly should something happen to you. They are legally responsible for contacting beneficiaries, settling your debts, closing your accounts, and whatever else is specifically included in your estate plan. It is critical that you think carefully about the person you are choosing and ask them whether they are able to accept the responsibility. Some people who may seem like ideal choices may not actually be able to perform the duties. For example, your adult child might have moved to another state, have a busy job, and started a family by the time they will need to step into that role. Ask them about their future plans and whether they, realistically, think they will be able to put the time and effort necessary into settling your estate.
4. Make Funeral Plans
Funerals can be a big financial burden. If you are able and want to allocate assets to pay for this, it’s a good idea to include this in your estate plan. You can designate a cemetery, choose a manor of burial, and even plan specific details. Including funding for this in your will will take some stress off of your family and allow them more time to dedicate to grieving and being with family.
5. Itemize Inventory
If you have physical assets, you will want to account for them in your estate plan. Homes, automobiles, electronics, tools and machinery, collectibles, art, jewelry, and any other items of personal or financial value should be listen and itemized in your plan. Try to think of everything. This list will likely be relatively long, and your attorney can help you cover all of your bases. If you need to talk to your kids or other family members about which assets you want to leave about them, it is a good idea to do so before finalizing your estate plan.
6. Consider Non-Tangible Assets
In addition to your inventory, you will want to allocate your non-physical assets. This includes anything you own on paper or any entitlements predicated on your death. Examples would be IRAs, bank accounts, life insurance policies, 401(k)s, and other policies like homeowners, auto, disability, and health insurance.
Most people have possessions or other assets they would like to leave to certain individuals. Drafting your estate plan as soon as possible is always a good idea, no matter the value of your assets. Work with an experienced attorney to ensure your estate plan is comprehensive and covers all of the necessary bases.