Estate Planning Checklist: 7 Items Every Estate Plan Should Have

Did you know that 58 percent of Americans don’t have a will?

Many people don’t have wills because they haven’t gotten around it or don’t believe they have enough assets to list in a will. Although many people haven’t gotten around to execute an estate plan, they can all agree on the value en peace of mind it can bring them.

If you’re ready to begin the estate planning process, you came to the right place. Read on for this simple estate planning checklist.

1. Determine Your Estate Planning Goals 

The first step in estate planning is to determine what your goals are. There are many different goals to consider when thinking about estate planning. 

For example, if you have minor children, you’ll want them to be taken care of in case something happens to you. You can even designate a caretaker if you have pets.

People also decide to do estate planning because they want to ensure their spouse and children have a financial plan in case of their passing. If they have a family business, they’ll want to make sure they control the business’s structure after their passing.

Those suffering from illness also want to put everything in order in case they become medically incapacitated. Whatever your reasons are, ensure you determine them before you start the process. 

2. Make a List of Your Assets and Possesions

Sometimes we underestimate how much stuff we accumulate over the course of our lifetime. When you’re in the process of making an estate plan, you need to make a list of all of your possessions and financial assets. 

If you want to facilitate the process, you can divide your assets between tangible and intangible assets. 

Your tangible assets include:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles with deeds such as cars, boats, and motorcycles
  • Jewelry 
  • Antiques, coins, art, and more

Intangible assets include:

  • Savings and checking accounts
  • Mutual funds, bonds, and stocks
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement plans such as IRAs and 401K
  • Business owner deeds

Keep in mind if you will have to get an appraisal of your tangible assets to determine the value of your home, for example. 

3. How Will You Protect Your Family?

Once you have made a list of your tangible and your intangible assets, you have to decide how you will divide them or use them to protect your family. 

For starters, do you have enough life insurance to protect your spouse or children? You need to make sure you leave them with enough life insurance to help them cover everyday bills. For example, if you need two incomes to support your household, your life insurance should cover the other half. 

Some people also want to leave enough life insurance to cover their children’s tuition. 

Those individuals with children also want to designate a guardian for their children during their estate planning process. To get peace of mind, some people even like to name a backup guardian.

Also, you should leave in writing how you would like the guardian to raise your children. Because people have different beliefs and ideas, you should leave them with your wishes for the upbringing of your children.

4. You Will Need Several Directives

Depending on the goals for your estate planning, you will need to leave several directives. The most common directives include medical care, financial power of attorney, a limited power of attorney, and trust.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney designates an agent to make decisions regarding your medical care. 

Financial Power of Attorney

With a financial power of attorney, you a designated agent to manage your financial affairs — your power of attorney will have the responsibility of paying bills, taxes, and having access to your assets on your behalf.

Limited Power of Attorney

As the name suggests, with a limited power of attorney, you designate an agent to act on your behalf when it comes to certain issues. For example, you might be able to grant them limited power to sell your home. 

The agent won’t have any other responsibilities aside from selling the home.

Trust

You can designate a living trust to divide or designates portions of your estate while you’re alive. For example, you can designate a certain portion of your assets to go towards your medical care should you become sick.

5. Keep Track of Your Beneficiaries

Once you’ve done an inventory of your assets and selected your directives, the next step is to review your beneficiaries. 

Start by going through your insurance and retirement plan policies and making sure you have the correct beneficiaries. For example, with life insurance, you can designate what percent each of your beneficiaries will receive. 

When it comes to your other material possessions such as jewelry, motorcycles, and more, you should name who will receive each of those items. 

It’s also a good idea for you to name backup beneficiaries for each of the items.

6. Get the Opinion of a Professional

Because creating an estate plan is a complex process, you should enlist the help of an expert. Estate planning attorneys will help you walk through the process and even include items you never thought about.

When you have a large estate or children, it’s advised you work with an estate planning attorney. They will be able to answer all of your questions. 

Follow This Estate Planning Checklist

Now that you know about this estate planning checklist, you’re ready to get the process started. Remember to do an inventory of your assets, designate beneficiaries, determine your goals, and get the expert’s opinion.

Do you need the help of an estate planning expert? Contact us today for a consultation.

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