You might think that only wealthy people need an estate plan. In truth, everybody can benefit from planning for incapacity or death. An estate plan sounds fancy but it's really about making sure your assets are handled properly if you are too ill or pass away. To find out how to get started on your own plan, read on.
Count Your Assets – The first step is to know what you have. Many are surprised at how much they own. Assets can be any one of the following:
- Real estate
- Vehicles, boats, etc.
- Funds in checking, savings, and investment accounts
- Precious metals and jewelry
- Artwork, collectibles, and antiques
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plans, stocks, and bonds
Once your list is complete, give each of those assets a value.
Family Needs and Considerations
Next, consider how to provide for your family using life insurance. Buy as much as you can afford if you don't already have enough. Those depending on two incomes, or with tuition and other big expenditures in the future, may need more than others. If your children are under age 18, name a guardian that you trust and that agrees to do the job. You can also designate a sum of money (using a trust) to go towards their care and to be awarded to them at a certain milestone or birthday.
Directives and Trusts
This area of planning covers powers of attorney and more. Medical directives (living wills) make known your end-of-life wishes in regard to being on life support. Several types of powers of attorney cover your financial affairs (durable and limited). Finally, consider a revocable trust. Trusts have tax benefits that wills don't have, they are private (unlike a will), and anything mentioned in the trust does not have to go through the months-long probate process.
Check Your Beneficiaries
A trust can contain beneficiaries but a will is still necessary. Almost all estates must pass through probate so a rudimentary will is preferred over letting your state make decisions about your assets. In regard to beneficiaries, check your primary financial records to ensure the beneficiaries on insurance forms and investment accounts are up-to-date.
Once the above has been gathered, checked, and double-checked, it's time to speak to an estate attorney. They can take your information and turn it into a complete estate plan that covers any eventuality. To find more about estates, or any of the above, speak to an estate attorney.