12 Months of Estate Planning: A Plan to Get Your Estate Plan Set up in 2020

12 Months of Estate Planning: A Plan to Get Your Estate Plan Set up in 2020

Estate planning can be one of the most important things you do for your family’s future, but it can also be overwhelming. Between heavy subjects you don’t want to think about, the need to do a lot of paperwork, and everything else going on in your life, it can be too easy to keep putting off your estate plan until later. The problem is you never know when you will need it. Get started before it’s too late by doing just a little bit at a time.

January: Determine Your Goals

Who do you need to take care of? Do you have a spouse that relies on your income? Children that still need an education? Grandchildren that you want to give a head start in life? Charities or other important causes that you wish to support?

Your estate plan isn’t a chore you have to check off to be a responsible adult. It’s something you want to do to achieve your goals. There are many types of estate planning tools available that work best in different situations. To pick the right tools, you need to begin with a plan for what you want to do — just like drawing up the blueprints for a house.

February: Take Inventory

After you know who you want to support, you need to know how you can. What assets do you have? Your home? Cash savings? Investments? A business? Family heirlooms?

When you divide your estate, you may wish to provide some loved ones with financial support and others emotional support in the form of specific items that will mean more to them. It’s also important to understand that if you have any debts, your creditors will take precedence over your heirs, so you need to account for those as well.

March: Create a Will

Wills are the most common estate planning tool because they are the simplest way to ensure that each of your loved ones is cared for in the way that you’ve chosen. You can create a will on your own, but there are some legal technicalities that could leave your will open to challenges or having some of your wishes not honored. An estate planning attorney can help you avoid those complexities. Even if you plan to use other estate planning tools, having a will is still a good catchall for things that may not otherwise be covered.

April: Name Beneficiaries

When you name beneficiaries on your bank accounts and investment accounts, those accounts automatically go to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death. This allows those beneficiaries to receive financial support without having to wait for your will to go through probate.

The main benefit to taking this step is so that any family members who need immediate financial support can receive it. For example, if they relied on your income to cover their living expenses, they may not have enough money to buy groceries or to make rent or mortgage payments on your home that they continue to live in.

May: Consider a Trust

A trust is another way to keep assets out of probate and transfer them directly to family members. Again, the goal is to skip the weeks or months of delays it takes to execute your will in probate.

A trust can also be used to ensure that the funds you leave go towards your intended purpose. You may leave a trust for your spouse’s living expenses or your children’s schooling. You may also restrict your children’s or grandchildren’s access to their inheritance until they are older and wiser and will hopefully put it to good use.

June: Plan for Your Healthcare

In addition to planning for what happens after you’re gone, you also need to have plans for what happens if you can’t make decisions for yourself while you’re hospitalized for a serious accident or illness. Even in close families, family members may disagree about what you want, and doctors may not be able to legally follow their instructions.

To ensure your wishes are honored, consider a living will, advanced healthcare directive, or medical power of attorney. These documents allow you to designate a trusted loved one to make decisions on your behalf with full authority. You can also include any specific treatments or end-of-life options that you want your agent to request on your behalf.

July: Designate a Financial Power of Attorney

Like the person you select to make your healthcare decisions, your financial power of attorney will step in if you’re unable to manage your finances. A full durable financial power of attorney gives your agent the ability to manage your bills and assets if you’re ever temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

You can also use a financial power of attorney when you’re still able to care for yourself to some degree but need extra help with certain tasks. For example, you might sign a limited scope power of attorney allowing a loved one to manage your checking account and pay your bills.

August: Look Into Life Insurance

Life insurance is another tool you can use to provide for your family financially when you’re unable to. Many working people opt to buy a policy large enough to replace their expected future income to protect their spouse’s and children’s lifestyles that were planned around that income. You can also use life insurance to guard against things like medical debts from reducing what you can leave to your family.

As with your other assets, you will need to name one or more beneficiaries in your life insurance policy or provide for the cash value of the policy when you write your will.

September: Plan for Estate Taxes

Estate taxes generally only affect families with multi-million dollar net worths, but you still need to be aware of them. Estate taxes can be particularly devastating when your net worth is mostly in real estate, a business, or other non-liquid assets. This type of situation often forces a family to sell a treasured home or multi-generational business to pay the tax bill. By planning how you structure your estate ahead of time, you can avoid taxes or at least make sure your family will have the ability to pay them.

October: Protect Your Business

In one sense, a business is like any other asset. You can leave it in your will to a loved one, or it can be part of your general estate to be divided up between your heirs.

However, businesses also have to be maintained if they are to continue to provide for your family. The death of an owner or key employee can be highly disruptive to the business and possibly even put it out of business. You should create a succession plan that provides for continuity of operations no matter what happens and that also gradually prepares your loved ones to follow in your footsteps if that’s your goal.

November: Organize Everything

Your estate plan is no good if no one knows about it to put it into action. Keep all of your important documents together in a fireproof safe that your family knows the location of. You may also wish to leave copies with your attorney or in a bank safe deposit box. Again, tell your family.

When you have a medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney, give copies to your doctors or banks in advance. Don’t forget to give them updated documents if you change or cancel your existing plans.

December: Review Everything Each Year

When you stop to reflect on another year gone by, think about how the changes during the year will affect your family’s future. New children may be born, others may grow up and no longer need as much help, and you may have new wealth to consider. While you don’t need to redo your estate plan every year, you should update the relevant portions of it after major life changes so that it continues to meet your goals for your family.

Estate Planning with Lilac City Law

Lilac City provides a full range of estate planning services and can help you develop a comprehensive plan for you and your family. We can help you put it together over the next year or help you get it done even faster. To learn more, contact us now to schedule a consultation.

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It has Been Awhile: The Top Signs It Is Time to Update Your Estate Plan

Are you thinking about updating your will? Have you had some big lifestyle changes that may affect your future finances? Have you always had a will but not kept up on updating it as your life has changed?

If you have answered yes to one or all of these, it may be time to change or update your estate plan

Keep reading for some more detailed reasons why your will might need to be changed. 

Your Relationship Status has Changed

In this day and age, a person’s relationship can change a lot about their lifestyle. 

One of the biggest reasons to update your will is if you have had a drastic change in a relationship. This could range from getting married, getting a divorce, to losing a spouse.

Marriage

Making sure your will and estate plan reflect the relationship(s) you are in is very important. If you have recently gotten married, keep in mind that a new spouse does not necessarily have to inherit everything should you pass, but it may be important to you to make sure they are reflected in your new will.

Divorce

On the same hand, getting a divorce makes updating a will essential. Make sure you speak with your estate planner after a split and discuss all options for removing an ex from your estate documents. 

Widowhood

Losing a spouse is hard. If you become widowed, you may inherit from them. This means that inheritance must be reflected within your new will or trust. 

You Have Had a Child

Growing your family will reflect on your estate as well. If you are thinking about having children make sure you speak with an estate planner about how this will change your will.

Once you have had a child, making sure they are added to your will is important. Updating it each time you add a new member to your family will also guarantee should the worst happen that they are well cared for in the future. 

You Have Changed Jobs

Sometimes a job change will affect your estate. A significant pay increase or a job loss should be reflected in any will you have drawn up. Make sure you speak with your estate lawyer any time a job change occurs. This will keep your finances safe in the future. 

It is also important to keep in mind that estate laws are not universally recognized throughout the country. An estate law in California will not be the same as in Washington state.

If you have moved to another country you may have to change your will accordingly. Contact an estate planner immediately once you have settled in a new home.

You Now Own Property

Nothing changes your life more than suddenly becoming a homeowner. This is a significant financial change that will need to be taken into consideration when you are redrafting your will. 

You will need to figure out how to pay it off should you pass. It will also need to have a set inheritor that you must document carefully. 

Update Your Estate Plan Today 

If you are thinking about big lifestyle changes, it may be time to create a detailed estate plan.

Having a will or plan will ensure your finances are well taken care of after you die. Making sure you work with a professional estate planner will further guarantee your affairs are set in order. 

From marriage to children to owning a home, your life can change at any moment. Having a will that is up-to-date on those changes will give you the peace of mind you need. 

Visit our blog if you’d like to learn more about how estate planning can affect your daily life. 

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Five Signs it is Time to Update Your Estate Plan

It is estimated that 58 percent of the baby boomer generation (those between the ages of 53 and 71) have an estate plan in place.

However, once created, many people do not realize that updates may be needed from time to time.

As a person ages and their situation changes, it may also be necessary to update their estate plan.

Do you know when it is time to make these changes?

If not, do not worry. You are not alone. You can learn when it is time to update these estate plans here.

Some Type of Major Life Event Occurs

Has some type of major life event occurred? Do you even know what this is? All of the following would be a major life event:

  • Someone gets married
  • Someone gets divorced
  • Someone is born
  • Someone dies

While the total list is much more extensive, this gives you a general idea of when you may need to update your estate plan. If you are not sure if what you have experienced is a major life event, then it may be a good idea to ask your attorney.

Your Financial Situation Has Changed

Regardless of if you have received some sort of windfall, received an increase in your pay, or have even lost your job, it is important to consider if the change is going to impact your estate plan.

Any significant financial gain or loss will likely require you to update your estate plan to reflect this change.

You Have Experienced a Significant Asset Change

If you move to another state, then it may be necessary to update the documents for your estate plan so you comply with the laws in that new state. It may also need to be changed so you can take advantage of any differences in the law.

If you own a business, a change in control or sale may affect your estate plan. If you currently sell real estate and move the proceeds into an investment account, then beneficiary designations may wind up impacting what passes through your estate.

While this is a short list, it gives you an idea of what to watch for. If you sell or purchase something of significant value, change the nature or status of an investment, updating your estate plan is a good idea.

It Has Been Over Five Years

Time can slip by pretty quickly. You may not even realize how much time has passed since you initially created your estate plan.

It is a good idea to review your plan regularly to ensure no changes need to be done.

Is it Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

If you are not sure whether or not it is time to update your estate plan, then it is a good idea to talk to an attorney. Keep this updated will help ensure that your wishes are adhered to after you pass away.

More information about creating and updated an estate plan can be found by contacting us at Lilac City Law. We are here to help with all of your end of life planning needs.

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Three Reasons Why Millennials Need an Estate Plan

If you are younger than 45 or 50, you may not think you need to worry about estate planning. That is something you do when you start thinking about retirement, right?

Those of us who are young and healthy have our whole lives ahead of us and plenty of time to worry about things like that later.

But the unfortunate truth is no one knows when something might happen to change their plans. Cars crash, people get sick, and sometimes young people die long before their time.

If you are on the fence about starting your estate plan, read on to discover three reasons why you should not put it off any longer.

To Protect Your Children

As millennials start heading into our thirties, many of us have children or have babies on the way. It may seem crazy to start thinking about your own death as soon as your child is born, but it becomes a much more pressing issue at that point. If something were to happen to you, who will take care of your child?

Setting up a will can help make sure your kids are taken care of if you or your partner pass away. Without one, they may go into the foster care system or wind up bouncing from relative to relative as a court sees fit. Some places offer family-friendly estate planning events, so there is no reason not to set up a plan to protect your kids.

To Control Your Health Care

One of the biggest advantages of having an estate plan in place is it allows you more control over your health care. Under normal circumstances, of course, you have a say in what medical treatments you do or do not get. But if you are in a coma or otherwise unresponsive or incoherent, that control will go away.

Having a plan in place can make sure your wishes are respected when it comes to your health care. For example, maybe you hold the view that you would rather die peacefully than stay on long-term life support or live with a debilitating brain injury. Having those wishes down in writing ahead of time can save your family (and yourself) a lot of heartaches and legal battles.

To Give Your Partner Rights

By this point, you may be saying, “Well if any of these things happen, I trust my partner to make the right decisions for me.” And while that is a wonderful thing, what happens if your partner does not have legal rights to make those decisions. Believe it or not, sometimes a person’s partner is not assigned as their power of attorney, especially if you are not married.

If you want your partner to be the person making the decisions if something happens to you, you need to have that down in writing. You can give them the authority to do everything from managing your health care choices to taking care of your children. Giving your partner authority will save a lot of legal battles and the risk that your wishes are not respected if you are not there.

Get Started on Your Estate Plan

Estate planning can be a somewhat morbid business; after all, no one likes to think about their own death. But it is the best way to ensure that if something does happen, your wishes and your loved ones are protected.

If you are not sure where to start the estate planning process, visit the rest of our site at Lilac City Law or contact us using the form below. We provide family estate planning to help you get your affairs in order so you can enjoy your life worry-free. Contact us today to get started on your estate plan.

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How Planning for Being Incapacitated Will Strengthen Your Whole Family & Estate Plan

When you think about it, planning your estate is not about dying. It’s about managing and protecting your assets, and who gets to control them, while you are living.

If you become incapacitated, having an incapacity plan in with your overall estate plan ensures that your best interests are clear. It also ensures your family is taken care of.

Why An Incapacity Plan?

If you become seriously ill or develop conditions affecting your memory, you may not be able to handle your finances without assistance. If you do not have a power of attorney, there could be a delay in handling essential matters such as paying a mortgage or filing taxes. Eventually, someone else will be appointed to manage your affairs, hopefully before you have done permanent damage to your estate.

To get ahead of these potentially catastrophic situations you can designate someone today to manage your affairs, care for you, seek treatment on your behalf, and generally make sure everything is handled how you would (or would have) handle them.

Build Your Plan

When you begin your estate planning, remember the following are essential documents that build your incapacity plan into your overall estate plan.

Living Trust

A revocable living trust is good to have for many reasons, including as security in the event you are ever incapacitated. All strong estate plans include a living trust.

In this trust document, you place assets such as your home, investments, and bank accounts. They move from your name to the trust’s name. You become both trustee and beneficiary.

You manage and use your assets as you always have. A living trust is revocable, which means you can change it later if you wish.

Your trust will list a successor trustee to step in if you die or become incapacitated. Your successor trustee is bound by the instructions you included in the trust.

He or she must manage your assets as you intended. When asked how to create an estate plan, attorneys often recommend living trusts because they provide peace of mind as well as financial protection.

Financial Power of Attorney

As mentioned earlier, the financial Power of Attorney (POA) appoints someone as your agent to pay bills and manage other financial matters. Even if you have a living trust, the POA provides extra securities.

Your POA can be durable, which means it can’t be revoked should you become incapacitated. It can also be springing, which means it doesn’t take effect unless you become incapacitated.

Estate planners understand and can explain the additional advantages of each type of POA.

Medical Power of Attorney

In some states, the medical POA is called a health care proxy or Designation of Patient Advocate (DPA). If you become incapacitated, it gives your chosen agent the authority to make medical decisions for you.

HIPAA Authorization

Federal laws known as th Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) are in place to protect your privacy and other patient rights. Medical providers often cannot share your medical information.

If you sign a HIPAA authorization, your medical team can communicate needed information to your family and medical POA.

Living Will

living will is not the same thing as a medical POA. A living will states your wishes when it comes to end-of-life care.

A living will is not enforceable in all states, but it allows you to convey critical information about your wishes should you become incapacitated and unable to express those wishes when it is time.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney

If your estate plan does not have all five of these documents, or if you do not already have an estate plan set up, it is time to talk to an estate planning attorney.

Contact Us today to get your estate plan and incapacity plan setup.

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What Guardianship Forms Do I Need To Protect My Children?

What Guardianship Forms Do I Need To Protect My Children?

Anyone with a child should have an estate plan.

 A fundamental part of your estate planning is setting up the appropriate guardianship forms should something happen to you.

Unfortunately, many people do not have an estate plan or guardianship plans because they either have not thought about it or they are unsure how to start.

In this article, we will discuss how to make sure your kids are protected, and the forms you’ll need to think about to establish this plan.

A Will

A last will and testament can be the most important form you can have in your estate plan.

Your will is not only the place for you to outline what happens to your property after you die, it is also where you might name a guardian for your children (or pets), identify someone to handle your property after death on behalf of your children, and identify an executor to manage your property from the time you die until your estate is settled.

A will falls under the umbrella of guardianship forms because whoever you name in your will, will become your children’s permanent guardian after you die.

If you do not name someone, then either a judge (who likely does not know you or your family) will choose who they think will be best, or someone will have to petition the family court to become your children’s guardian.

If you want a specific person to raise your children after you die, then you need to have a will.

To find out how to choose the best guardian for your children, click here.

Temporary Guardianship

Naming a temporary guardian for your children is not something most people think about.  This is especially true if they have already named a permanent guardian.  But there is a good reason to get a temporary guardianship setup.  For instance,  if there is an emergency and your permanent guardian cannot get to your children right away, then your children will go into the state’s care until your permanent guardian can get to them.  This is just adding trauma to trauma – in an already uncomfortable situation for them!

Having a temporary guardian set up will help reduce the stress and anxiety the children may already be going through.  They will be more comfortable with someone they know and trust.  And they can start working towards their new sense of normalcy.

Setting up a temporary guardian is also important if you are going out of town or the country.  Setting up a temporary guardianship will allow your children’s caretaker to make school decisions and medical decisions if needed.

To read more about temporary guardianship, click here.

Letter of Instruction

One more guardianship form that gets overlooked is a letter of instruction.

This is the place where you explain your hopes and expectations for how your children are raised.  These include decisions about your children’s education, activities, and religion.  Be sure to update this letter as your children grow and their interests and needs change.  Also, make sure you share and discuss this letter with your chosen guardian(s) so there are no surprises.

These are the three most important guardianship forms to have for your estate plan to protect your children.  You can read our article What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan? to learn more about what other documents you need to have in your estate plan to protect your children and family.

I Need Help Setting Up Guardianship Documents For My Family
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A Young Family’s Guide to a Rock Solid Estate Plan

If you are under 40 years old, the chances of you have thought about, or even pursuing estate planning is pretty small. However, something brought you here, and that means you are on your way to changing the way you look at planning your future!

The exploration of life planning that brought you here is the reason we started doing estate planning for families here at Lilac City Law in the first place. We believe that the best time for you to set up an incredible estate plan is when you are young; maybe even before you have children! So, where we begin this exploration in estate and life planning?

What step do you take first to get you from realizing an estate plan makes sense, protects you and your family, and is something you can do regardless of your asset profile?

Let’s look at the path to estate planning, step-by-step, and help you get prepared to engage with an estate planning attorney who has already established some basic fluency in this topic.

Estate Plan: The First Step, Get Started

Probably the best thing to know about starting an estate plan is the first step can be free. Set up your Protection Plan. This action alone knocks off several of the items we are going to be discussing later in this article. You can do set up your free protection plan here. Moreover, if something happens to you or your family while you are working on the rest of your plan, you will be set up with at least some security.

Get Started Here – Set Up Your Protection Plan

Estate Plan: The Second Step, Read Wear Clean Underwear

We cannot recommend enough grabbing a copy of Wear Clean Underwear. This book breaks down the reasons why you should be considering an estate plan in incredible detail. From the very beginning, you get to choose your adventure and see how common life scenarios play out depending on what estate planning decisions you make. If there is a list of books you should be giving new families, this book should be high on that list.

Estate Plan: The Third Step, Get Familiar with Estate Planning Items

If you completed step 1 above, awesome! Hopefully, you have step 2 bookmarked, now. And now for the third step, review the following fundamental elements of a comprehensive estate plan.

Estate Plan: Establish Your Last Will & Testament

When most people think about life planning, and how to set up their family after their passing, they think about establishing a will. A will is often more formally titled, a Last Will and Testament. But what is it? And, why do you want one, or need one?

A Last Will and Testament helps you to direct the transition of your assets to family members, friends, or whomever else after you pass away. It is almost always a formal legal document; however, there are cases where a court has upheld a will etched on to the paint of a tractor, and there are indeed other extreme examples of last-minute wills. For the sake of estate planning, we are sticking to a document you draft with your family and your estate planning attorney though! 🙂

The benefits of a Last Will and Testament are that they can cover items that a living trust may not cover. With a Trust, you are trying to transfer assets without having to go through the process of probate. Probate is costly and can be bypassed to a great extent with estate planning. However, you will not be able to continuously transfer all your assets to a Trust, no matter how diligent you are. A Last Will and Testament will help you here by covering things you have left out of your trust either by accident or on purpose.

In addition to unaddressed assets, a Trust cannot declare who will be the final guardian of your children in the event of an untimely passing. This contingency, in particular, is something your Last Will and Testament will spell out explicitly. Moreover, this scenario is also why you would benefit from working with an excellent estate planning attorney to set it up. Read the book we talked about in step two to see why, for your kids’ sake, this is something you want to work through in extensive detail.

Estate Plan: Advanced Health Care Directive

An advanced health care directive is a document in which you can set down your end-of-life preferences. You can also appoint someone in your directive to act on your behalf in making health care decisions for you, assuming you cannot make them for yourself.

Without a health care directive, your end of life care may be decided by doctors who do not know you and are unable to get your direct consent to treat (or not to treat).

An advanced directive is also often called a living will.

Estate Plan: Health & Financial Powers of Attorney

If it comes to pass that you are unable to manage your finances, or direct your self-care, who will take care of those things? If your spouse or partner is your #1 choice, that is a great plan. But, what if they are not able to help you out? Maybe they passed away, you split up, or they are simply out of town when something happens?

Health & Financial Powers of Attorney enable someone you trust to both acts on your behalf financially and in health care decisions for you. These Powers of Attorney (POA) also allow your designee to obtain information on your behalf. We wrote a great article on how this can work well, and how things can go sideways without these documents. It is worth a read, here.

Estate Plan: Kids Protection Plan

A Kids’ Protection Plan is not necessarily one static document. Instead, it is probably best looked at as the state of your estate and family planning. Are your kids set up to be taken care of if you pass before they are grown?

While you are exploring estate planning, this is something you want to get set up as soon as reasonably possible. Meaning, to start, we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Get a basic kids protection plan set up, here. The basic plan will give you and your family some level of protection as you work through the more granular aspects of estate planning.

Eventually, you will want to establish custody rights in your Last Will & Testament. Likewise, you will want to set up how your assets will transfer to your children if that is your desire. Also, you will want to set up many other things with other steps we talk about in this article.

So, step one for kids’ protection, keep them out of the custody of the state, get a guardianship set up here.  Step 2 ~ 100, talk to an estate planning attorney.

Estate Plan: Final Arrangements Plan

The particulars of your final arrangments are likely to be as unique as you are! However, the broad strokes things you might want to cover and leave in a place where your family can find them, include:

Your desire for what will happen to your body. Do you want your remains to be buried or cremated? Are you ok with embalming?

Do you have a preference on who will be handling your remains for burial or cremation? Have you worked with a specific mortuary in the past? Do you already have arrangments with them to take care of you?

Where will you be buried, interred, or placed? Is there a particular cemetery or location you have in mind? Are there actions you wish to be taken at that event?

If you are a Veteran and want to be interred at a National Cemetery, do you have a copy of your DD214 available and the number for the National Cemetery Administration ready for your family or caretakers to quickly make arrangments?

Have you already made provisions for a casket? Do you wish a certain type of casket or container be used? How do you want this to be paid, if you have not already paid for it? Do you want an open or closed casket funeral, if the choice is available?

Who will be your pallbearers? How do you want to be transported to your final resting place? Who will scatter your ashes, and in what way? Do you have funeral preferences?

Is there a marker you wish placed on your final resting place; a gravestone? Alternatively, a particular engraving to go on whatever marker you have set up?

Estate Plan: Business Documents

If you are a business owner, you might have given some thought to what you want to happen to your business if you are not around to operate it anymore. Even if you have not, it is probably a good idea to establish some contingencies. Exactly how the contingencies are setup will be predicated on many factors, including business structure, partners, debt, industry, products, and a million other things.

The best bet here is to talk to an estate planning attorney and work through a planning process. What do you want to happen; a transfer of ownership? A sale of the business (who will the proceeds go to)? We are scratching the surface on this issue, but the important thing to remember is that all your plans for your business can be worked out in advance; you just need to start the process today.

Estate Plan: Insurance Policies

Do you have life insurance setup? We are not writing this article to tell you whether to do so or not; we only want you to be able to help you transfer all your assets and investments where they are supposed to go. To do that, you will need to have a list of your insurance policies ready and the individual procedures and points of contact setup at those policies.

Don’t forget that credit cards and other items that might involve debt often have the option to provide life insurance too! You may have a policy set up that you did not even realize you had!

Regardless, get your plans laid out for your family to work through, get your beneficiaries lined up, and establish a plan for transferring the payout to whomever you wish to designate.

Estate Plan: Tax Materials

Owing taxes after your passing is maybe the ultimate injury to insult! However, if you own property your property will remain after your passing, and the taxes will too, sadly. Your beneficiaries will need to be instructed on how, when, and whom to pay taxes. They may also need a historical account of your taxes, for any number of reasons.

Estate Plan: Investments & Accounts

While you are getting your insurance and tax documents in order, you should be laying out any investments and bank accounts you might have as well. This list will be very helpful for your financial power of attorney, and/or your family when you pass.

It is important to think about this as more than your bank accounts too. Don’t forget 401k, stocks, bonds, bitcoins, IRA’s and other forms of investment.

Estate Plan: Trusts in Addition to Last Wills and Testaments

We covered Trusts, as they relate to Wills, earlier in this article. In many ways, Trusts and wills seek to fulfill the same ends but by very different means. Whereas a Will grants property and assets to a designee, it is often more open-ended. It is also far more restrictive in updating.  Here’s another article that compares the two as well.

If you need to amend a Will, you either have to go through a public court proceeding, or you have to scrap it all and start over. The thing is if you create a Will years or even decades before your passing and you intend it to speak to every aspect of your estate, it will be very open to interpretation. This point is where a probate court will come in, and on top of taking a hefty portion of your estate value in fees, the court will seek to interpret your will. Do you want someone who does not know you to understand the intentions that you put on paper 20 years ago? < This is where a Trust can help and work in tandem with your will.

You can use a trust to pass specific assets on to a beneficiary, bypassing probate entirely. Moreover, if you avoid probate through establishing a trust, you keep the details of your asset profile out of public records. This benefit in itself is self-evident. If you value the potential information on your children’s assets to be kept private from unscrupulous “advisors,” transferring those assets in a trust is one way to go. Can you tell we value privacy?

Lastly, a trust is easy to update, especially in comparison to a Last Will and Testament. A phone call to your estate attorney once a quarter and you will have a trust that is ready to be executed once the parameters you have decreed have been established. You can read more about how a trust is implemented in this article from our blog.

Estate Plan: Contact Sheets

Does your sister in law have your babysitter’s contact information? How about your parents, do they know how to get ahold of your spouse’s cousin who lives next door? It is imperative that you have contact sheets created for key points of contact, and that those contact sheets are readily available.

More to this point, you will want to have a procedure set up for what happens if the way someone learns something has happened to you is that you haven’t come home. Do they call the police first? Do they call your neighbor who knows your children’s guardianship plan and has access to it?

Again, read this book – free with this offer, to see why this is so very important. Then contact an estate planning attorney to get the ball rolling on this.

Estate Plan: Passwords & Account Information

How secure is your Facebook account? Does anyone else have your password? Your spouse, your kids? You would probably know because if they did, they would no-doubt be posting practical jokes all the time from your account, right?

Kidding aside, it makes a lot of sense why you wouldn’t share your social media, email, or other account passwords with someone else. Why would you even have a password if you started sharing it? Plus, passwords now have to change often anyway, so keeping a physical and updated copy can be a challenge.

The solution here might depend on your preferences. Whether it is a physical sheet of paper you keep in a safe place, or an Application you install on your smartphone, it is a good idea to have some way for those you care about to be able to access your important accounts in an emergency, or after you pass.

Estate Plan: Emergency Cash

Have you ever thought of storing some cash in your mattress? Ok, well maybe somewhere a bit more secure… The point being, you do not know what will be the emergency that makes your estate plan necessary. In actuality, there may be several emergencies throughout your life that part of your estate plan becomes necessary to address.

Part of what makes a rock solid estate plan so comprehensive is that it addresses as best as possible all those nebulous potentialities. The estate plan is specific where it needs to be, but flexible enough to handle the unknowable unknowns. In regards to flexibility, cash is king.

Cash is immeasurably useful; it is easy to transfer (hand it over). It is accepted universally. It can be easily secured. Also, you do not need anyone’s help to build a small but capable emergency stash, just in case you need it someday. Make sure cash is part of your emergency estate planning, and make sure it is readily available.

Estate Plan: A Photographic Itemizations of Assets

This idea crosses over into good insurance practice too. You can describe your assets in great detail, but as it has been said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Keep a photo diary or photo catalog of your assets. It may come to pass that your desire to transfer certain assets might not be as descriptive as necessary if there is some contention. If however, you include a picture of that property, as well as a description of it, you leave a whole lot less up for doubt.

Plus, as we said a second ago, keeping photos of your assets is helpful for insurance purposes too. So, it just is a good, and cheap, safety measure to incorporate into your regular estate planning.

Estate Plan: Photos & Recording of Yourself!

While you are thinking about pictures, you may want to put some physical pictures away in a safe too. Or at the least, start uploading them to the cloud via Dropbox. Another option is using several USB sticks.

Why would you want to do this? For your family, your kids in particular. This idea depends on how much you wish to leave behind for your family to know you by. Many families create these digital memories and never need them. They send them with their kids when they leave home or watch them with them at their milestone birthdays; which is also pretty awesome! However, some families will have these become part of their record to their children of who they were when they were alive.

In the end, photos and recordings of yourself are not necessary for your estate plan. But, they are a touching gesture for your family, should you pass.

Estate Plan: Store Your Estate Plan in Different Places

Lastly, in our rundown of estate plan musts, store your plan in several places. Or at the very least, store it in one very secure place. This plan is going to be important to your family at some point. If it is when you have passed, you will not be able to tell them where or how to access it, if you moved it.

In fact, you might have lost a physical copy of your plan due to an accident, a fire, moving, or something else. It happens! Keep the details of your plan safe.

Estate Plan: The Most Important Last Piece

One option for this is to work with an estate planning attorney. Once they find out that your plan is necessary, they will immediately become part of the team to triage your needs and the needs of your family. Do you have a guardianship plan, so your kids do not end up wards of the state? If so, your estate planning attorney will know where it is, how it works, the limits and rights it grants, and how to execute it immediately.

On top of everything else we discussed in this article, having a trusted advisor in the form of an estate planning attorney is the most important “must have” in this entire article.

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