If you could do anything to make your passing easier on your family, would you? If your answer to that question is a resounding yes, then you should establish an estate plan. As with most things, the hardest part about establishing an estate plan is starting the process. So, how do you get started and what should you consider?
- Create a Net Worth Summary: This is a great tool for a multitude of purposes. From an estate planning standpoint, it provides a one-page summary of your financial life. While you may not want to share this with anyone other than your spouse, you should be sure that your children know where it is.
- Establish beneficiaries: If you have investment accounts, you can easily add Transfer on Death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) agreement. These are established for each account separately (in most cases), so you will need to complete this multiple times, and it is also important to list both a primary beneficiary (for example - your spouse) and a contingent beneficiary (for example - your kids). The greatest benefit of having a TOD/POD in place is that the assets in those accounts should avoid probate, which can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially if you have complicated family dynamics. Most custodians allow for establishing TOD/POD agreements online without paper forms. The most time-consuming part is likely the collection of personal information for your various beneficiaries. Remember that Net Worth Summary? Add the beneficiary listings to it once established.
- Consider a separate writing: A separate writing is simply a list of tangible personal property (think artwork, collectibles, family heirlooms, vehicles) and the individuals/individual that you would like to receive them at your passing. This is often overlooked but a necessary part of helping make this tough time a little easier for your survivors.
- Ancillary Documents: Shifting gears from the numbers side of things, an estate plan should also contain documents to make it easier on your loved ones prior to your passing. This includes Durable Powers of Attorney (DPoA), Healthcare surrogate, and an advanced directive (also known as a living will). These three documents are designed for use while you are still alive to assist your primary caregiving team with making decisions according to your wishes.
- Hire an estate planning attorney: Paying an estate attorney today will save your family many multiples of that initial expense when it comes time to distribute your assets. I cannot stress enough the benefits of hiring an estate planning professional as considerations change from state to state, various assets should be handled differently, and they may provide creative solutions to situations you didn’t consider or know about.
Want to discuss your estate plan or establishing one for your family, schedule a meeting with us.
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