Even if you have yet to speak to an estate planning attorney, you may already be thinking about the steps you need to take to ensure that you leave all your affairs in order should you pass away or become unable to make decisions for yourself. Take these steps to ensure that you are properly prepared.
1. Create a will.
The will is the document that states who will receive your property and similar information. If you have children or pets, this document would also say who should take guardianship of them should something happen to you.
2. Create a trust.
When you select a trust in which to put your property, those you leave it to will not have to go through probate court, ultimately spending time and money. This helps to protect assets you intend to leave to your children who may not yet be of age to properly accept it.
3. Create a living will or health care directive.
If you find yourself in a position where you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, it is important to have a health care directive. This document includes both your living will and your power of attorney, which appoints somebody to make decisions on your behalf.
4. Appoint somebody to make financial decisions.
If you establish a durable power of attorney, you are entrusting somebody to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. This person can be anybody from your estate planning attorney to a trusted family member.
5. Name a beneficiary.
A bank account, life insurance policy, or retirement plan must be made payable to somebody. In order for this to happen, you must name a beneficiary so that, again, your loved ones can skip probate court. You can also do the same for stocks and bonds.
6. Purchase a life insurance policy.
Life insurance is one of the best ways to protect those you love. If you die owing money to others, life insurance will help cover this. Life insurance can also help cover funeral costs and estate taxes.
7. Plan your funeral.
Nobody wants to think about planning a funeral, but it is vital that you do so. You can begin making payments on your funeral with a prepayment plan, or you can set up a trust that will automatically pay for the funeral upon your passing. It is also important that you make your wishes known so that your loved ones actually know what you want.
8. Keep your documents safe.
Make sure that your lawyer or executor of your estate has access to essential documents. These include all paperwork related to your will, trusts, insurance policies, and bank accounts.
Planning your estate takes quite a bit of work, but it can safe effort on behalf of those you care about most in the future. For more information, contact Acton & Snyder, LLP or a similar firm.