Believe it or not, you have an estate. An estate is comprised of everything you own – your car, home, investments, etc. Estate planning is the process of creating a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die. This process is for everyone - the old and the young– as everyone has something that they would like to pass on. Even though planning for the end of your life can be a daunting task, it is a responsibility that should not be ignored. Listed below are 12 issues to consider when estate planning*:
- Make a will
A will states who you would like to inherit your property. You may leave specific personal property to a person of your choice. For instance, Aunt Jane shall receive my topaz ring. Through a residuary clause, you may leave the remainder of your estate to a different individual. For instance, you leave your topaz ring to Aunt Jane while the remainder of your estate goes to your Husband Bob.
- Write out your healthcare wishes
If you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, it is imperative that you either designate your wishes or name someone who can act on your behalf. For instance, do you want to be an organ donor? Do you want life sustaining treatment? Consider executing a Living Will and/or a Healthcare Power of Attorney.
- Execute a Power of Attorney
By executing a Durable Power of Attorney you designate a person, known as your Agent to handle any of your affairs that you are able to yourself. For instance, your agent could sell, manage or lease property on your behalf. He or she could access your bank accounts, pay your bills and handle your financial matters on your behalf. Exercise caution in designating an agent as they essentially have the power to act on your behalf in all matters.
- Protect your children’s property
If minor children will inherit some of your property when you die, you should plan accordingly and name an adult to manage any money or property given to them.
- Consider life insurance
If your loved ones depend on your financial support for their livelihood, then life insurance is a must, because it replaces your income when you die. Make sure to designate beneficiaries accordingly as your will does not govern the distribution of life insurance.
- Make final arrangements in advance
It’s important to determine before your death if you would like to be buried or cremated and any specific requests for a funeral. Many churches and funeral homes allow you to prepay for burial and customize services. Doing this prior to death alleviates the emotional burden on your loved ones.
- Protect your business
If you are the sole owner of a business, you should have some sort of succession plan to determine who will take over after your death.
- Store your documents
Your Personal Representative will need access to certain documents such as your will, insurance policies, certificates on stocks and bonds, trusts, etc. You should place originals in a safe place such as a lock box or fireproof safe and make sure that your Personal Representative knows where to locate them.
If you have any questions about estate planning, contact one of our attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey LLC to help you begin this process.