Estate planning might seem overwhelming initially, but it could seem more manageable if it is taken down into steps. Everyone should take part in estate planning. No matter how many assets you do or don’t have or what size your family is, it can be essential to plan out what will happen after you are gone.
Estate planning is essentially creating a plan for your assets to be handed down to family, friends, or charities once you are gone. Implementing a plan can get increasingly more complicated depending on the assets, but having help from an estate attorney can ensure all the steps are taken correctly and with your last wishes in mind.
Take Inventory Of Your Assets
The first thing you will need when starting estate planning is to take inventory of your assets. You can start with your physical assets. This might include cars, houses, RVs, property, or sentimental items you wish to be given to someone special. Financial assets such as money from your checking or savings accounts, mutual funds, life insurance policies, or businesses are also something to account for. Items such as family videos, smartphones, design files, and other digital entities can also be considered assets.
Once you have these items categorized and listed, you can visually see what needs to be gone through, and you can start the process of figuring out what goes to who.
Create a Will
The next step you will need to do is create a will. It does not matter how many assets you have. A will can save your family and friends money and time from going through a lengthy probate process.
There are many different will options, from simple wills, living wills, and joint wills, but whatever you choose should be a representation of your wishes. A will is there for you to distribute your assets to the proper people and ensure your requests are carried out.
Finding the people you wish to have in your estate plan is essential. Your beneficiaries are the ones who get your assets, whether financial or physical, when you are gone. There are also contingent beneficiaries you can set in place if your original beneficiary is unable to inherit the items you have listed. Without beneficiaries, your friends and family will go through a much longer probate process, and your assets will be handed out without your say during court.
While choosing people, you might be motivated to select an executor. This is the person who ensures that your last wishes are all met. They will handle every part of your estate and see to it that your assets are handed out accordingly.
Choose a Medical and Financial Power of Attorney
Alongside the other people you choose to be in your estate plan, a medical and financial power of attorney is essential to ensure you are taken care of if there is a circumstance where you are unable to speak for yourself.
A medical power attorney is someone you have chosen to make medical decisions on your behalf. This might not seem necessary, but it can be helpful in life-or-death situations that we can not predict. They should be someone you undoubtedly trust and understand your viewpoints and opinions in situations.
A financial power attorney is very similar. They will be able to answer financial questions on your behalf in times when you are incapable. This can be as simple as paying your bills. Ultimately you want to choose someone you trust to undergo your financial responsibilities.
Write a Letter of Instruction
A letter of instruction can be necessary for those extra details that are not included in your will. If you want your family to know passwords to certain accounts, how to take care of your houseplants, how you want your obituary written, or what close to be buried in, a letter of instruction can be a great way to express these thoughts.
Communicating throughout the estate planning process can also help ensure that your family is on the same page. No matter your plan, those around you must know what to do and how to enact your final wishes.
An estate plan can look different for everyone. If you are unsure of the first steps or want to learn more, reach out to the team at Hartmann Law.