Setting up a fully comprehensive estate plan means covering all the bases so that when you need the plan to work for you, it works the way you envisioned it would.
However, that also means planning for contingencies and getting things in order today, so that tomorrow your family or caretakers aren’t scrambling to figure it all out.
If you’re starting to think about estate planning, or even if you’ve already setup an estate plan, here’s a list of must have items for your estate plan.
And, of course, if you’re already working with a great estate planning attorney, this article will be something you can refer to for your own insight, or to share with others as they work through their own estate planning processes.
Establish Your Last Will and Testament
After a trust, and guardianship plan, and beneficiary documentation, and a hundred other things, a Will can be your ultimate backup plan. A Last Will & Testament directs what your wishes will be with regards to your assets after you’re unable to make those decisions anymore. You’ll also want to discuss with your estate planning attorney how you can protect your assets and decisions from probate, and the costs associated with probate, by setting up a trust.
Regardless, Step one is to start considering who you would wish to inherit different parts of your estate, upon your passing or incapacity.
Setup Your Durable Powers of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal tool you can use to designate an individual to step into your shoes and act on your behalf in financial, medical, and/or estate decisions if you not been incapable of doing so.
There are different types of durable powers of attorney so you will want to thing about someone who can handle decisions regarding your healthcare needs, financial assets and investments, and any potential legal procedures.
Plan for Your Family, Setup a Children’s Protection (Guardianship) Plan
If you have minor children, or adult children with special needs, this is something you really need to pay attention to. In the event that you are unable to take care of your own matters, or you pass away, you will want to assign someone (a guardian) to be responsible for the assets and money you plan to leave behind for your children.
In absence of a clear plan to manage and transfer your assets and estate to your children, a judge may end up making that decision for you. You can start setting up a Children’s Protection Plan for free, here!
Designate & Setup Beneficiaries for Your Bank and other Accounts
The purpose of an Estate plan is to plan ahead for unexpected, or sometimes expected but unavoidable events, to ensure your transition is as seamless, and frankly cost effective, as possible.
Deciding who your beneficiaries are, allows hassle-free and automatic transfer of your financial assets to them at your passing. Fund control can be transferred to beneficiaries without any tiring and time consuming court concerns, and if you set things up correctly, you can potentially avoid probate in the event of your passing.
Whatever path your estate plan designates, you should create a list of your accounts and assets, and work to start figuring out who the beneficiaries of these accounts should be.
Plan for End of Life Events (funeral)
There are different ways to plan for your funeral ahead of time such as a ‘Pre-paid Funeral Plan’ or Funeral Insurance. Another option is setting up an account in your bank known as the ‘payable-on-the-death’ bank account which allows you to designate a beneficiary for the assets in the account. They may, of course, use some of this to pay for your funeral expenses!
This is just another piece of a great estate plan that takes into account unforeseeable, but also unavoidable, expenses. And establishes a means to help your heirs address them.
Establish a Schedule for Updating your Estate Plan
The first item on your schedule should be to consult with a great estate planning attorney! After that, you’ll want to setup a regular timeline to review and amend your estate plan. Over the next couple decades, God-willing, your assets will change, and your plans for who should inherit parts of those assets may also change. Reviewing your estate plan once a year, or once every couple years, ensures that when it becomes necessary, there are no out of date issues, and no glaring holes – leading to confusion and potentially costly court proceedings for your intended beneficiaries.
To keep it easy for you, here’s a list of times and reasons you should update your estate plan.