If an estate plan sounds like something that only an adult needs, and you’re over 18, then congratulations: you qualify. That is true if you have any assets, and if you have children, you definitely need an estate plan.
The truth is that everyone needs estate planning. If you have any assets and you intend to give those assets to a loved one, you need to have a plan. If you become ill or incapacitated and can’t make decisions on your own, you’ll need a healthcare proxy so that someone you trust can be involved in your medical care.
How do you start? An article from Forbes’, “Reviewing Your Financial And Estate Planning Checklist,” will give you some of the steps to take.
First, take inventory of your possessions, including your home, vehicle, stocks, life insurance policies, etc. There are many steps and documents that an estate planning attorney will suggest you put into place immediately for your protection.
The first of topic is a durable power of attorney for property, finances and health care. This document allows you to designate a trusted individual to make decisions and take action on your behalf with matters relating to each of the three areas above.
In addition to the importance of having all powers of attorney readily available, in case you become incapable of making decisions, beneficiary designations should also be looked at frequently to update any changes to family situations, like a birth or adoption, death, marriage or divorce.
Another topic to address is a living trust. A trust will give direction regarding where and how the assets are dispersed when you die. A great reason to use a living trust is that the assets in a trust do not pass through probate court, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process.
Another area is digital assets. It’s critical for your heirs to have access to digital files, passwords and documents. This can be easy to overlook. Create a list of your digital assets, including social media accounts, online banking accounts and home utilities you manage online. Include all email and communications accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you manage. This list should be clear and updated for your heirs to access.
Lacking an estate plan, your wishes may not be followed, and your family may be subjected to a nightmare in settling your estate, which will take far longer and cost much more than if you had an estate plan in place.
Reference: Forbes (January 4, 2019) “Reviewing Your Financial And Estate Planning Checklist”