The end of 2019 is rapidly approaching and this is an excellent time to review your estate plan to make sure your personal affairs are in order and loved ones are taken care of.
Your estate plan is a vital piece of your families financial security and if not in order can leave a headache for your loved ones after you are gone (and in some cases long after you are gone depending on the complexity of your assets and liabilities).
Below are five tips to assist you in reaching your estate planning goals.
- Create a Record of Your Assets and Liabilities
This can be informal or formal. If you are tech savvy, you can create an excel workbook with your assets on one page and liabilities on a second page. Some choose to hand write this on a piece of loose leaf. This document can be one that is dynamic and evolves. At minimum, it should include bank accounts, investment accounts, real property investments, promissory notes, insurance policies, mutual funds, locations of large cash on the assets portion of your record. For liabilities, it should include student loans, mortgages, credit card debts, personal loans, utilities.
While this is a great record for you to maintain for your own purposes, this will be essential for the representatives of your estate. If they have all of your assets and liabilities in one place it will make it much easier for them to administer your estate after your passing. Also, make sure your closest and most trusted loved ones know where this record is maintained.
- A Current Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives (Living Will & Healthcare Proxy)
These documents are must have, and there is little excuse for not having them. We focus our estate planning representation on new or blended families who have different legal needs than those who are retirement age. New families may have infant or toddler children. It is imperative that you have a Will in place and agree on potential guardians for minor children. You also want to designate how your assets will pass to minor children who are under the age of majority.
- Review Life Insurance Needs
Life insurance is one of the best options and most tax efficient way to pass money to your beneficiaries. Generally speaking, you should have enough coverage to pay off a mortgage on your home, your spouses student loan debt (if any), and a minor child's future education costs (or at least enough to superfund a 529 plan).
- Tell Your Beneficiaries
Sometimes clients will forget to tell their loved ones about where all the above documents are located. Don't do that! At minimum, you should tell the Executor of your estate where these documents are. You should probably tell a back-up person too, just in case. It makes no sense to go through the time and expense of preparing a great estate plan if no one is able to find it when it is needed.
- Storage of the Documents
Lastly, store these documents in a safe place. For your healthcare directives, that means somewhere close so in the event of an emergency that documents can be quickly grabbed and given to emergency responders. For Will's, safe means in a fire proof box where mildew or water can't get in. Almost all Will's are stapled, storing a Will in a damp place can lead to the staples becoming rusted and falling out or disintegrating. This can cause your estate problems when attempting to probate the Will.