The truth is that everyone needs estate planning. If you have any assets, and you intend to give those assets to a loved one, you need to have a plan. If you become ill or incapacitated and can’t make decisions on your own, you’ll need a healthcare proxy so that someone you trust can be involved in your medical care, this is part of your estate plan.
How do you start? An article from Forbes’, “Reviewing Your Financial and Estate Planning Checklist,” will give you some of the steps to take.
First, take inventory of what you own, including your home, vehicle, stocks, bank accounts, life insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. before your first meeting with an estate planning attorney. There are many steps and documents that they will suggest you put into place immediately for your protection.
The first of topic is a durable power of attorney for property, finances and health care. This document allows you to designate a trusted individual to make decisions and take action on your behalf with matters relating to each of the three areas above.
In addition to the importance of having all powers of attorney readily available, in case you become incapable of making decisions, beneficiary designations should also be looked at frequently to update any changes to family situations, like a birth or adoption, death, marriage or divorce.
Another topic to address is a living trust. A trust will give direction regarding where and how the assets are dispersed when you die. A great reason to use a living trust is that the assets in a trust do not pass through probate court, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. The key to avoiding probate, however, is having all assets and beneficiaries align with your estate plan. If you have a trust but don’t align your assets with the trust, your family most likely will be in probate court after you die or are incapacitated.
Another area is digital assets. It’s critical for your heirs to have access to digital files, passwords and documents. This can be easy to overlook. Create a list of your digital assets, including social media accounts, online banking accounts and home utilities you manage online. Include all email and communications accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you manage. This list should be clear and updated for your heirs to access. Be careful to comply with online terms of service contracts to make sure your loved ones can legally access your digital assets.
If you lack an estate plan, your wishes may not be followed, and your family may be subjected to a nightmare in settling your estate, which will take far longer and cost much more than if you had an estate plan in the first place.
Reference: Forbes (January 4, 2019) “Reviewing Your Financial And Estate Planning Checklist”