Most of us put off estate planning similar to our alarm clocks going off
in the morning, we keep hitting the “snooze” button hoping
that we can just go back to sleep putting off the inevitable for just
a few more minutes. Unfortunately, the end comes to us all, where we need
to ensure that our loved ones and heirs are not left with significant
issues. We need to answer the alarm and prepare properly.
Most Estate Plans are created at least in part to protect heirs, generally
spouses and children. Your estate consists of everything you own when
you pass, including your home, personal property, bank accounts, investments,
retirement plans, and any interests in a family business or partnership.
Below are a few steps to help guide you through your planning:
1. Be proactive. Create a Will. Every adult needs a Will or some form of a testament. It does not matter
if you are single or married, with or without children. It’s necessary
to have a Will in place and keep it updated. One of the largest benefits
of your Will is it allows you to name your beneficiaries and what they
will inherit. It also allows you to name the guardian and conservator
for your minor children, distribute items of personal property, state
your final wishes with regard to burial or cremation and even make provisions
for your pets.
2. Cover your bases. Develop a Living Will. Living Wills designate an agent and provide them with written instructions
that specify a course of action regarding your welfare should you no longer
are be to personally make these decisions due to illness or incapacitation.
The designated agent appointed in the Living Will is then responsible
for carrying out the instructions and making decisions on your behalf.
3. Review and revise. Update your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are individuals designated to receive money or other benefits
from a benefactor (you) upon death. You may choose to change these designations
as a result of marriage, divorce, birth, or death. Review and update your
beneficiary designations to confirm that all designated individuals are
up to date and accurate to minimize confusion upon distribution of your estate.
4. Stay current. Manage your estate plan. Very few things in life ever remain the same. Many of those things are
small changes that do not have any legal significance. On the other hand,
some changes are large enough to require changes in your Estate Plan such
as marriage, divorce, buying or selling property, or even changing jobs.
Make sure that you create and update your list of assets and debts and
compile instructions for your executors or personal representatives outlining
your personal property, bank accounts, and the like.
Plan with professionals. Estate planning often consists of several moving parts and pieces. All
of which combine for a thorough and thoughtful estate plan. Consult with
legal and tax professionals to ensure that you are minimizing any issues
for your loved ones and heirs and maximizing the financial estate that
you are leaving them.