10 Steps to Planning Your Estate.
Very few people want to think about their estate plan. Doing so means mulling over scary events in the future, such as death and incapacity, plus it can involve awkward conversations with family members.
R. E. Silverman.
However, many of us have no form of estate planning in place, which means that we have no control over what happens to our assets when we die, and our families become financially vulnerable at a time when they are most in need of some support and stability. So here’s our checklist to get you well on the way to a perfectly planned estate.
- Prepare your will. If you die without a will, your estate ends up in probate court and takes considerable time and expense to clarify. And it gets worse in abroad, where you are at the mercy of different rules and legal systems…
- Get a ‘Living Will’ and Power of Attorney – Make provision for your estate and care if you are no longer able to make those decisions. You need a ‘living will’; also known as an Advanced Directive of Health Care / Health Care Proxy, and a Durable Power of Attorney. You may need to submit these to your medical records.
- Make a list of all your assets and all your liabilities. Your liabilities will be paid at your death, followed by any tax, administrative and probate costs. What’s left over is what your beneficiaries will get. Get legal advice on anything jointly owned, such as businesses and real estate, and remember to include details of any online assets such as bank accounts, online businesses or collections.
- Choose a guardian for your children, and ask their permission, especially when circumstances or number of children change. Discuss plan and provisions made for the children, and how these will affect any children they might already have.
- Use estate planning guidelines or software to make initial plans. Get your thinking done outside of the lawyers offices (and hours). While you still need to get it at least reviewed by a professional, they will thank you for turning up knowing what you want.
- Name the executor/s who will manage your estate from the time of your death until the time that your assets are distributed. Choose wisely – it’s a stressful and time consuming job, and is notorious for creating family rifts, and make sure that they are willing to take on the role.
- Review your plan. If you already have an estate plan, you should always review your plan in case of any change. Ensure that you have included information that makes locating all your assets easy for your executor, such as life insurance policies, online and offshore bank account details, and any non-physical (online assets) you may have. Also, hiding places for money, jewelry, safe deposit keys etc.
- Get your will correctly notarized. Laws vary from state to state and country to country on what witnesses are required to make a will legal. No beneficiary should ever sign as a witness.
- Have only one set of documents signed, witnessed and notarized. You’ll probably get duplicate copies. Keep the others for your files.
- Keep your insurance policies where they can be easily found in the event of your death. Your death does not change the everyday costs of living for your family, and the earlier the claim is processed, the better.
Review your estate plan every few years. Even if your own circumstances haven’t changed, the laws may have. Review immediately if you relocate to ensure that you comply with the local laws and update any account details, etc.
Further reading: Your 5 Minute Guide To Estate Planning