One thing to keep in mind about starting estate planning is not to set it and forget it. As life changes, your estate plan should too.
The reason people choose an estate plan is that it avoids probate. Starting an estate plan helps ensure that your money, property, and assets transfer more easily to your beneficiaries after you die. Here are five things to keep in mind as you start your estate planning process:
You may not realize how valuable your assets are or who may want them when you’re gone, so be sure to list who receives each asset and the approximate value of each in the estate plan. During the estate planning process, asset information to keep in mind includes homes, land, other real estate, vehicles, boats, and collectibles. Intangible assets to include in an estate plan are savings accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plans, ownership in a company, and more.
Even if you have an estate plan, you will also need a will since it takes care of assets or details that may not be included in your estate plan document. Work with a legal professional to create a last will that will detail your wishes regarding the distribution of your property, money, and assets. Your will is also the document to appoint someone to care for minor children or pets. Keep this document up to date as your financial and familial situation changes.
A house is an excellent example of something that can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally exhausting to transfer after someone dies. If you don’t have a living trust document, your family may need to go through probate. This is a tedious court process to transfer your assets retroactively, which can be expensive and public.
A complete estate plan includes legal directives such as a power of attorney document, a medical care directive, and a trust document. Who you choose as your power of attorney is a critical decision. So choose wisely and keep your power of attorney document up to date. In case the relationship with that individual(s) changes.
Consistently check the beneficiaries listed on your retirement and insurance plans. These designations can outweigh what is listed in a will. Life transitions that may prompt a change in beneficiaries. These transitions include divorce, the birth of a new child, the loss of a loved one, a marriage, etc.
Your legal and financial professionals will work together to help ensure that your estate plan contains specific information regarding your securities and retirement assets to help transfer your assets to your heirs when it’s time.
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