Sometimes it’s difficult to get started on a project but it can be helpful if you have a checklist, according to The Business Times which recently published the article “Use this checklist to get started on your estate planning.”
We at Family Estate Planning Law Group reinforce the importance of reviewing asset ownership with our clients frequently. It’s one of the most important parts of an estate plan, but the most overlooked. We took The Business Times’ article and emphasized some of the key points to check to ensure your assets are aligned with your plan. On our modified checklist are:
Create an estate plan if you don’t have one. A 2015 survey found that 54% of Americans ages 55 to 64 and about 70% of Americans ages 45 to 54 don’t even have a will in place. Creating an estate plan could save your heirs from the expensive and lengthy probate process.
Review beneficiary designations. Check your estate plan and verify with your financial institutions that your designated beneficiaries are correct. These take priority over the provisions of any will or trust documents when it comes to retirement accounts, life insurance, and other non-probate assets, so it’s crucial you ensure they’ve been correctly aligned with your plan.
Make a list of assets and debts. List your real property and personal property assets, as well as real estate you own and its value. Also list personal property items that have a monetary worth. You should also list bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, other investments and insurance policies. Finally, make a list of your credit card debts, mortgage, home equity line of credit, and any consumer loans. You will need to work with your estate planning attorney to ensure all these assets and debts are addressed in your estate plan and aligned with the provisions of the plan.
Reduce, communicate and make wise decisions. Consolidate your IRAs and bank accounts to shorten your list, eliminate statements, reduce paperwork and avoid fees. Tell your heirs which causes and charities you value and select reliable trustees. Consolidating your assets can save your heirs huge headaches later and communicating with them about your estate plan when there’s no crisis means they know your wishes and their roles ahead of time. That’s a huge relief in the event of your death or incapacitation; knowing your plan ahead of time means they’re not struggling to decipher your wishes in the midst of a crisis.
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended because there are numerous financial, legal and emotional issues and pitfalls to avoid. An experienced estate planning attorney with an ongoing maintenance program will be able to help you align assets with your estate plan, verify the correct alignment with your financial institutions and work with you to track changes in assets over time. That can be the determining factor for an easy or difficult process for your heirs after your passing.
Regardless of your level of wealth, if you own a business, have a blended family, have a child with special needs, are concerned about health issues or simply want to ensure your loved ones are cared for after your death, use this checklist to get going now.
For more information on Family Estate Planning Law Group’s unique process that emphasizes taking care of your family by ensuring your assets are aligned, verified and tracked over time, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: The Business Times (Sept. 20, 2016) “Use this checklist to get started on your estate planning”