There are a number of excuses as to why people choose to delay estate planning. They don’t think they are old enough. They don’t think they are wealthy enough. They feel in good health and figure they do not need to start estate planning. They are too busy and will get to it when things slow down. The truth is, however, that estate planning is too important to put off. This is true regardless of your age, your health, or your wealth (or lack thereof). To help you see the importance of estate planning and also give you a bird’s eye view of what will be involved in the estate planning process, we have assembled this estate planning checklist for your review.
What Should Be On Your Estate Planning Checklist
A good place to begin in the estate planning process is to compile a list of your assets, their value, and who you want to receive them after you pass away. Yes, depending on the size of your estate, this could be a rather substantial endeavor, but it is an important one, nonetheless. Be sure to account for your real property, your digital assets, and those assets that may not be worth much financially speaking, but are great in sentimental value.
Consider your options for how you can transfer your assets so that they end up in the hands of the correct beneficiaries. While most people think of a will to serve this purpose, there are a number of other options. Some people choose tools other than a will for asset distribution for reasons such as avoiding probate. To do so, various trust types may be utilized. Furthermore, some assets may be designated as payable on death or transfer on death so that they are automatically transferred to a named beneficiary upon the death of the account owner.
While asset distribution is an important part of estate planning, it is by no means the only part of it. Estate planning also involves putting important tools in place to protect your health care wishes and incapacity planning. That is why your estate planning checklist should include the creation of a living will, health care surrogate, and durable power of attorney. A living will can outline your health care wishes in the event you are in a terminal health care state and unable to communicate such wishes for yourself. A health care surrogate will appoint a trusted individual as your agent empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney can grant your agent the authority to conduct legal and other business matters on your behalf and can help the need for a guardianship to be established should it be found that you are unable to manage your affairs on your own.
An important aspect of your estate planning checklist is also to take careful consideration in who to appoint to certain trusted roles within said estate plan. You will need to designate a personal representative of your estate as well as agents under your health care surrogate and durable power of attorney. Consider these roles and the responsibilities they will carry with them. It is a big decision as to who should take them on.