Your Estate Planning Checklist
When I do my estate planning, I take the following into consideration: 1. Make or update my will A will allows you to determine what happens to your money and possessions when you die, and who becomes the guardian of your minor children. Otherwise, state laws and courts will make those decisions on your behalf. 2. Make a living will This document can speak for you by outlining the medical procedures you want taken if you become too ill to state your wishes yourself. 3. Create durable powers of attorney These documents allow you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are two types: one to deal with your personal, legal and financial affairs, and another to deal with healthcare decisions. 4. Create a letter of instruction This document provides a list of instructions for your survivors to follow. For example, it can spell out funeral wishes, people to contact, and where your will and other key papers can be found. It also can provide information about your financial accounts and activities. 5. Calculate my net worth, including life insurance proceeds If you have substantial net worth, consider talking to a tax or financial advisor to determine steps necessary to minimise or eliminate the impact of estate taxes 6. Establish a trust, if appropriate A trust is a legal entity that holds property designated by you for the benefit of you and your beneficiaries. For example, you might need to set up a trust if you name minor children as your life insurance beneficiaries (legally, they are too young to receive proceeds directly). 7. Consider funeral pre-planning Pre-planning can relieve stress on your survivors and give you control over the ultimate cost of your funeral. 8. Make arrangements for the orderly transfer of business assets Business owners can pre-determine what will happen to assets through legal agreements and life insurance on business partners. 9. Organising financial records If you store any of the information on your computer, make a list of all passwords; indicate where any disks are stored and where the information can be found. 10. Create a list of financial accounts List account numbers and pertinent information about your investments, bank accounts, insurance policies (life, disability, homeowners, credit and life) and other financial matters. 11. List the location of valuable documents Your list might include deeds, car titles, military records, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees and estate planning documents.