Estate planning is not something you are probably thinking about… especially if you are decades out from retirement.
It is one of those things we all know we should do but don’t think about until we are much older.
Sometimes, sadly, we do not think about it until it is too late.
However, regardless of where you are in life, you should have an estate plan set up.
So where do you start? Get yourself educated, informed, and start getting to know your assets and options as soon as possible. Here are some tools to help you understand and get started with estate planning.
Checklist & Asset Inventory
Motley Fool Green Light has an excellent checklist as well as worksheets to help you gather all of your information into one place. You will need to print it out in order to fill it out. You can find that “Estate plan Papers to Gather” checklist here.
You can also find an asset inventory from Charles Schwab that helps you list out all of your assets, personal information, and beneficiaries. This form you can either print out and fill out as needed. The Charles Schwab asset inventory can be downloaded here. (Download link not working anymore, contact us for a helpful form!)
A living will is also known as an advance care directive. A living will is only valid while you are alive. It states your wishes for end of life medical care in case you are unable to communicate your decisions. You can set up the living will to take effect either as soon as it is signed or it can be set up to only begin as soon as you are unable to communicate your wishes. The requirements for a living will vary from state to state so your best option is to hire an estate planning attorney to help you. Be wary about do it yourself wills, here is why.
You can find informative pamphlets and a living will worksheet and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care worksheet from Providence Washington, here.
Durable Power of Attorney (Finances and Health)
A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to name a trusted person to be able to make decisions about your finances should you become incapacitated. If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, then your loved ones will have to go to court and ask for the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf. You can find a durable power of attorney for finances worksheet here.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated. It also allows you to voice what you want if you become incapacitated.
Last Will and Testament
You last will and testament is a legal document that allows you to say how your estate will be distributed after you die. It will also allow you to name a guardian for your minor children if you have any and also what will happen to your pets.
There are two types of living trusts; Revocable (can be changed) and Irrevocable (cannot be changed). Unlike a will, a living trust will ensure that property left through the trust will not have to go into probate.
When it goes through probate, it can take months to be settled and sometimes cost as much as 5% of the assets to pay for lawyers. Not everyone has to be concerned about probate, and some people may not need a trust at all. You can speak with an estate planning attorney to find out if you need a living trust. Sources: