Estate planning goes beyond drafting a will. It involves thorough planning, which entails accounting for all your assets and making sure they transfer smoothly to the entities or people you wish to receive them. Along with implementing your plan, you must also ensure that others are aware of it and understand your wishes.
Not sure how to get started? Here is an ultimate planning checklist to get your affairs in order.
1. Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that relays the person’s final wishes on dependents and assets. In this document, you will name a guardian for minor children and pets, if any. It also outlines all the personal property and states which individuals/charities you want to receive each asset. It names the executor to carry out the terms of your will.
2. Revocable Living Trusts
A revocable living trust is a trust whereby provisions can be canceled or altered depending on the originator of the trust or granter. This document lists all personal property and decides which charities or people you want to receive the assets. It also transfers your property into a trust and names a successor trustee to help in the management of your trust after you die.
3. Beneficiary Designations
This document outlines the person who will inherit your non-probate assets like Life insurance policies, 401(K) and IRA accounts as well as pensions. In estate planning, it is also possible to designate your estate as the beneficiary. Instead of transferring your assets to an individual, the asset is transferred to the estate. Then, the asset can be distributed according to the provisions in your will or trust.
4. Advance Healthcare Directive
It is a legal document that outlines all your medical care directives in your living will. It also names the health care agent to make essential medical decisions for you in the presence of your medical power of attorney.
An advanced healthcare directive is meant to help you plan and let others know the kind of care you want. It guides your loved ones and the healthcare team in making the decisions on your healthcare. These medical decisions include special actions or emergency care.
5. Financial Power of Attorney
It is a document that allows trusted attorneys the authority to act on behalf of the main-agent in monetary matters. In this document, you get to choose a financial agent to make essential financial decisions for you. In case you need your agent to donate your money to charity, you should specify which charities and how much you wish them to receive.
6. Finance Information/ Insurance Policies
This legal document gathers all copies of your health, life, car, and home insurance policy documents. It keeps a list of your financial accounts and institutions like credit cards, bank accounts, and mortgages. It will inform the executor of your will of the kind of assets and liabilities you have.
7. Proof of Identity Documents
It is important to ensure that you are who you are when writing your will. This will determine whether you’re in a position to dictate what should happen to your assets when you die. Providing proof of identity and where you live is necessary.
This legal document gathers all your proof of identity documents like birth, divorce, and marriage certificates, Social Security card, and prenuptial agreements.
8. Property and Title Deeds
Property and title deeds are legal documents utilized in estate planning because they specify the real ownership of property and land. It covers the real property and anything attached to the land like roads and buildings.
This document gathers all the deeds and titles for your vehicles, homes, and real estate. It also provides evidence that the listed property owner is correct. When you establish a trust, make sure to retitle your property so that the trust is the owner.
9. Digital Passwords and Logins
This document helps in naming the digital executor in your will. It involves a list of all your digital assets like financial and bank accounts, email and social media accounts, access passwords for streaming services as well as digital files like documents and photos.
10. Funeral Instructions
This document provides the instructions on how you want your funeral to be conducted. It provides a list of all your funeral preferences including specifying whether a burial is to be conducted or cremation, the passages you want to read, the type of service you like, preferred charities for donations, and specify whether you prefer flowers.
Once you have all the above estate planning documents in place, keep them in a safe, accessible location. Consider informing your loved ones where the documents are located. Provide a copy of these documents to individuals who may require them. For instance, you can provide a copy of the advanced health care directives to your medical professionals. Always update your estate plan whenever there are major changes in your life.