Preparing an Estate Plan
There are plenty of reasons why many of us have procrastinated in putting together a will or estate plan. Perhaps the single biggest reason is that “life gets in the way.” Days are packed with commitments to job, family, school, church and community. There are too many other things that have to get done today.
If you have been “too busy” to give serious thought to a will, you are not alone. Almost 60% of American adults lack a basic will. One of the most important reasons for a will is to make certain provisions are made for the care of your children who are minors, while also making financial provisions for your family, picking someone you trust to oversee your estate, outlining any specific wishes on the distribution of your assets, and supporting your favorite charitable organizations. Now is the time.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but there are a few things that almost everyone should consider when planning their estates:
1. If you have minor children, select a guardian. Custody of minor children or other dependents could be decided by a court if you die without making your wishes known.
2. Designate your heirs and determine how much and when they receive your assets.
3. Prepare medical and financial powers of attorney in the event you become incapacitated.
4. Select a family member, friend or trust company to administer your estate. This personal representative would distribute your assets in compliance with the directives of your will or trust.
5. Discuss and put in writing your wishes for funeral arrangements.
6. Designate who should receive any treasured items or special family heirlooms. If you make your wishes clear, this can greatly reduce the possibility of disputes over your possessions.
7. Have up-to-date beneficiary information on your insurance policies and retirement accounts.
8. Prepare a net worth statement, listing all of your assets and liabilities. Include account numbers and contact information for your bank accounts, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, mortgage and other major loans, as well as life insurance policy numbers.
9. Make sure that the person you have named to administer your estate has a copy of your will, has access to your list of assets and liabilities and has the names of your accountant and lawyer.
10. Consider a charitable gift as part of your estate plans.
11. Consider whether you could benefit from professional legal or financial advice. A well-drawn estate plan may let you reduce taxes, help protect a family business and allow you to accomplish your family and charitable objectives.
12. Review your estate plans every couple of years to make sure they continue to reflect your wishes. Also, if your circumstances have changed – children are grown, your estate has increased, etc. – your will may need to be updated accordingly.