Everyone Needs An Estate Plan
If you get sick, who will feed your cat? Pick your daughter up at school? Pay your bills?
What if you’re in a fatal accident?
When you have a written plan to take care of those questions, you have an estate plan. Everyone needs one. Now is the time to make one.
Here are some simple steps for making a plan that will ease your mind.
1. Start with a Will. When you write your Will you state who will inherit the property that you now hold in your own name. You can also name a guardian for your minor children.
2. Think About Using a Trust. When you fund a Trust with your assets, you can eliminate the Probate process. That means your loved ones will save time and money after you’re gone.
3. Name a Health Care Proxy. The person you name as your Health Care Proxy will have the power to make decisions if you cannot. You should also write out your wishes concerning major medical decisions so that the person you designate will know how to follow your wishes.
4. Consider Naming Someone to be your Attorney-In-Fact. You can use a Durable Power of Attorney designation to give a trusted person the authority (and the responsibility) to handle your property and your finances if you are unable to do it yourself. The person you designate is called an Agent or an Attorney-In-Fact. Often, the costly and public process of appointing a Guardian can be avoided if you name an Attorney-In-Fact instead.
5. Protect your Children. Decide who will be responsible for caring for your minor children if you cannot. Remember, that you may want to name one person to manage the assets (a Trustee) and another to raise them (a Guardian).
6. Remember to File Beneficiary Forms. Your pension plan, your IRA, your 401K, and your life insurance policies may allow you to designate a beneficiary who will be paid upon your death, without going through the probate process. Make sure that you keep your beneficiary designations up to date so that your true wishes are carried out when the time comes.
7. Beware of Estate Taxes. If you and your spouse have assets in excess of $2 million, you should make provisions to allow for the payment of estate taxes.
8. Think About Life Insurance. It can be a good way to provide for your children, pay off your mortgage or debts, or finance the payment of your estate taxes.
9. Make Your Final Arrangements and Allow for Funeral Expenses. Let your family know, in writing, your wishes regarding organ donation, disposition of your body, and the memorial service. Depending on your situation, you may wish to set up a funeral prepayment plan with a trusted funeral director, or a funeral account at your local bank. Either way, it will help your loved ones through a difficult time.
10. Protect your Business. A succession plan is an essential part of any solid business plan. Consider key man insurance and buyout agreements.
11. Store your documents. Someone should have access to your important documents. Be sure to let your attorney-in-fact or your Personal Representative (Executor) know where these are:
- Insurance policies;
- Real estate deeds;
- Certificates for stocks, bonds, annuities;
- Information on bank accounts, mutual funds, and safe deposit boxes;
- Information on retirement plans, 401(k) accounts, or IRAs;
- Information on debts: credit cards, mortgages and loans, utilities, and unpaid taxes; and,
- Information on payable-on-death accounts or funeral prepayment plans, and any final arrangements instructions you have made.
12. Call Us. We know how to make the estate planning process easy and effective. We’ll take good care of you.