Two inevitable realities of life are always there include taxes to pay and we all eventually die so you’d be wise to plan for both.
Most Americans can barely afford to live, let alone worry about what will happen when they die.
You’ll be doing your loved ones a huge disservice if you don’t make preparations and have an estate plan in place.
Don’t worry if you haven’t started, you’re not alone. The majority of Americans are in the same boat.
Keep reading for an estate planning checklist that will help you and your family have peace of mind now and in the future, no matter what it should bring.
1. Take Stock of Your Life
You can’t plan your estate and write a will if you don’t know what you have to work with and what your priorities are. You’ll want to create an inventory of your possessions, investments, savings, property, and heirlooms.
You’ll also want to put a file together which includes;
- Your mortgage or lease details
- Safety deposit box location and contents inventory
- Statements from bank, retirement fund, and any other investment accounts
- Insurance policy details (incl. beneficiaries, death benefits and cash value)
- List and account of debts, contracts, and financial obligations
You’ll want to include not just things with financial worth but also any items or personal possessions that you have an intended recipient for. The more you include in your inventory, the easier the rest of your estate planning process will go.
2. Who Matters in Your Matters?
Make a list of the people who will be affected by a change in your life circumstances. This list may include:
- Immediate and extended family
- Doctors, lawyers, insurance representative
- Work disability and pension
- Banks, real estate agents, etc.
Have this list available for you to work off of as you plan your estate. It is a good idea to include a folder with all of their contact information, business cards, reference and account numbers, etc. with all of your documents so if you are unable to communicate or if something were to happen to you, your executor or family members know who to contact about each matter.
3. Legal Instructions and Directions
The last thing you want to happen if there is a death or crisis in the family is for there to be stress and tension because no one knows what the person really wanted.
As unpleasant as the thought is, it’s important that you put as much about your wishes in writing as possible to avoid confusion or perhaps the wrong choices being made because of ignorance.
4. Writing a Legal Will
Some people do write up their own will with legal will kits but these can still cause some confusion and stress and may even be contested.
It is always advisable to seek the legal advice of someone who specializes in estate planning like rampinolaw.com if you want complete peace of mind.
When writing your will, you’ll want to specify who will inherit your assets and how you want your money and property divided.
If you have minor children, you’ll want to include your wishes for who will take care of them and detailing how they will be financially provided for.
5. Living Will Directives
There should be some directive as to who will take care of financial decisions and matters and who will make health and welfare decisions should you become incapacitated.
These decisions may all be made by the same person or the responsibilities may be divided with one person (eg. a lawyer) taking care of financial matters while a family member makes healthcare decisions.
If you do not wish extraordinary measures taken and plan on having a “DNR” stating you do not wish to be resuscitated, this should be clearly and concisely detailed in your living will. The more you express your wishes, the easier it will be for family to make the right decisions should the situation arise.
Many families end up not allowing their loved one to save others as an organ donor because they aren’t sure that is what the person wanted. Having a living will and detailed directives will take the guesswork and guilt out of the decision for your family.
6. Financial Estate Planning
You have now figured out what you have in the world and who will take care of each responsibility. There are some financial issues you may want to plan for now.
While your life insurance may cover some of the cost of funeral expenses and taking care of your family if you should die, there are still things you can do now to make it easier for them should something happen.
If you have children you may want to work out the terms of a trust fund for them. This may also be an option you choose for dependants adults in your care or for any business matters.
If you have your own business, you’ll want to have a plan for what happens with the business should something happen to you.
Legally and financially, you don’t want your loyal employees being left not only emotionally devastated by the tragedy but financially distressed by the business imploding on your demise.
Prepaying for burial, cremation, headstones and other funeral and death expenses is also a way to make a difficult time easier for your family. They won’t have to worry about the expense or stress about making all the decisions.
7. Share Your Estate Planning Checklist with Family
The best thing you can do to ease stress and worry for your family is to be open with them and share your wishes. The more they hear what you want from you directly, the easier it will be for everyone to know they are making the right decisions when you aren’t capable of telling them.
Let them know where your documents are, what you have included in them, and why it’s important to you. This will stop any surprise, worry or tension due to miscommunications or guilt for family during the crisis.
It will also stop the government and others from stepping in and making decisions that should have been up to you and your family.
Make Life After Death Easier
You can make life for your loved ones much easier if you follow an estate planning checklist and prepare for the inevitable.
To make the most out of life until that fateful day, be sure to bookmark our site and be a game-changer.