The idea of estate planning can be intimidating to some; that’s understandable. But planning your estate is an absolute necessity in the event that anything should happen to you that results in your death. Having an estate plan in place absolves your family members and heirs from future legal woes and saves them a trip to probate court.
Keep in mind that an estate plan comes in handy prior to passing away. A properly put together estate plan should also include provisions that will allow family members to access monies and assets should you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself.
While some people think that an estate plan simply means drafting your last will and testament, it is much more than that. Everything should be outlined in your estate plan. However daunting, it doesn’t have to be this all-consuming task that requires extreme effort. Creating an estate planning checklist can streamline the process so you don’t get overwhelmed.
After you create your checklist, it is advised that you contact an estate planning attorney to help you go through your checklist and answer some of these important questions…
- Who are you bequeathing your assets to and who are the beneficiaries?
- If you are choosing to distribute your assets or savings to more than one person, who are those beneficiaries?
- If you have a young child, who should be given legal custody?
- How much money is needed for your children’s education and daily needs?
- Who should oversee your finances should you become incapacitated or wind up in a coma?
- Who are you appointing to distribute your assets; who is the trustee?
Now that you have asked yourself some of these questions and are starting to understand that planning an estate is much more than drafting a simple will, let’s begin creating your checklist that you can go over with your estate planning lawyer.
Steps to Assembling an Estate Planning Checklist
Free your family of future hassles and start planning today! Creating a thorough estate planning checklist will save them the hassle of court proceedings and restore peace after your passing.
Create a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that carries out the wishes of the deceased or for someone that has become unable to speak for themselves. The last will and testament clearly outlines, in detail, how assets will be allocated. It will list out how things like property, cars, or tangible possessions and investments shall be dispersed, as well as any monies that were remaining after death.
Your will and testament will take care of any property that must be probated. It will also address custody and care of any minors and who the executor of your estate will be. This legal document should also outline how any debts or back taxes should be paid so that a smooth transition is achieved.
California estate planning suggests that you create a ‘pour-over’ will that can be used in conjunction with a revocable living trust, in addition to your last will and testament. Be sure to ask your estate planning attorney about revocable trusts and living wills.
Create an Inventory of Assets
No matter the circumstance, one of the first steps to estate planning is to assemble a list of assets. This is such an important part of the process that there are computer programs that can help you keep everything organized and make it easier. You can always opt to use an Excel spreadsheet so that you can add to your list of assets in the future. Remember to back up any digital documents and even print out a hard copy to keep in a safe for your records. Some things you should list as assets are…
- Bank Accounts
- Real Estate
- Cars, Vehicles, Boats
- Other Possessions (Furniture, Electronics, Appliances Jewelry, Clothing)
- Life Insurance Policies
- Include Any Outstanding Debts/Liabilities
Considerations to keep in mind:
- Try to complete as much of the inventory as possible.
- If necessary, you can come back and complete any missing information later.
- If you’re completing the asset list as a couple, you may want to consider drafting separate worksheets and then combine them at a later date.
- Keep a copy of your assets in a safe place and tell someone you trust where to find it.
It is extremely important that you name a beneficiary and even a secondary beneficiary should something happen to your first appointee and they are unable to accept the responsibility. If a beneficiary or beneficiaries aren’t listed, then your assets and estate go to a probate judge that is likely not to understand your wishes or the personal dynamics of your family and relationships.
Keep in mind that a number of possessions are able to be passed along to your heirs without being outlined in the will, like a 401k for instance. That’s another reason why naming beneficiaries for each and every facet of your estate is essential. Any insurance plans should also have a beneficiary listed as well. This is also a great time to address guardianship of any minors that were under your custody at time of death or incident.
Appoint a Financial Power of Attorney
Granting someone power of attorney (POA) essentially puts them in charge of your financial matters and will prevent courts from getting involved in your estate. This responsibility should only be given to someone you trust with your life, literally. In some states, you may be advised to fill out an official financial power of attorney form so that it clearly outlines who has power of attorney. Not only will the person you choose have control over your assets, but they will also be responsible for paying any lingering bills, taxes, and debts.
Advance Healthcare Directive
You may want to consider appointing a health care power of attorney that can oversee and make decisions regarding your health care should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. Your healthcare power of attorney is able to have total access to your medical records. In this legal document, you should detail your last wishes and any ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) instructions.
Consider Consulting an Estate Attorney, Tax Advisor or Fiduciary
Even with all of your ducks in a row, you could be missing something that only a trained and experienced legal eye can catch. Don’t get stuck in a situation where you don’t have all of your bases covered. There are law firms that specialize in estate planning and can answer any federal tax questions, recommend a responsible fiduciary, and help make your last will and testament legally binding and thorough.
Estate planning lawyers can also help you sort out any real estate dealings, stock portfolios, and savings that you want to be allocated to the proper parties. Consider enlisting the help of a professional estate planning attorney as an added layer of protection so that your family and heirs can put their energies to grieving in peace.
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ESTATE PLANNING? CONTACT OAKTREE LAW TODAY!
OakTree Law is open for business during the COVID-19 crisis. If you’re in need of an experienced estate planning attorney and #QuarantineLife has left you in limbo, reach out to us now. We’ll help draft your last will and testament and assist you in getting your assets in order in the event the unforeseen happens. We are here to serve you. Call us at 888-219-0654 for a free phone consultation today!