Estate Planning Checklist: 7 Key Things You Need To Do To Plan Your Estate
Planning your estate can be a bit of a hassle. You need to have an organized way of doing the planning to ensure that your family is well taken care of at the time of your death. A single detail missed can have a significant impact on estate planning.
Having an estate plan has a lot of benefits. It can significantly reduce the amount of estate taxes that your wealth embodies. It can also ensure that your family receives what is rightfully theirs. Having an estate plan means you take care of your family and loved ones even if you’re no longer with them.
Hence, you must be fully guided with a checklist to aid you in estate planning. This article discusses seven key steps you must consider in planning your estate. Study these steps carefully and evaluate your current situation to know if you need to draft an estate plan.
Step 1: Inventory Your Assets
The first step you must accomplish is to have a list of your assets. This list includes your tangible assets, such as cars, houses, money, etc., and your intangible assets. Having an estate plan means allowing you to have all the things taken care of after the time of your passing.
You can also list all financial accounts you want someone you trust to manage after your passing. Executors can claim these for you, especially if these accounts have been lost in time. Just keep in mind to clearly state them in your documents as you don’t want to leave a burden of hunting these lost accounts when the time comes.
Step 2: Determine Your Plans For Your Family
As mentioned above, planning your estate also means planning how to take care of your family when you’re gone. These are the following things you can prepare beforehand for your loved ones.
Choose A Guardian For Your Children Under 18 Years Of Age. If you have a minor child, a part of the estate plan allows you to select a designated guardian for them. The guardian shall take care of them until they reach the legal age. If you have not expressed this term in your will, the court shall decide who will raise your children.
Establish Life Insurance. If you believe your finances cannot fully support your family after your passing, you can set up life insurance. You can assign your family as your beneficiary to help them immediately after your passing. Keep in mind that you must follow California’s existing life insurance policy at all times in setting it up.
Choose Your Executor Or Trustee. Distributing your tangible and intangible assets after your death can be troublesome. Hence, appointing your executor or trustee to manage your properties can make the process easier and cost-efficient. Take note that you must communicate clearly with your executor/trustee to ensure they are ready and willing to take care of this business.
Step 3: Prepare All Necessary Legal Documents
Estate planning involves at least four elements— a will, power of attorney for finances, medical directive, and living trust. Each of the following serves a different purpose:
- Will. The will is the framework of your estate planning. This document presents all the terms on how you want your assets to be distributed. Creating a will doesn’t have to be always big. A simple will can already do. Not creating a will allows the court to make the decisions for you. This act could lead to various problems, such as additional fees, stress, and inappropriate decision-making.
- Power Of Attorney For Finances. A power of attorney gives someone the authority to care for your financial affairs when you cannot.
- Medical Directive. This document allows you to choose what medical procedures you want or do not want to undergo. Having a medical directive helps your family make decisions about your health sustainability when you cannot make them.
- Living Trust. A living trust allows you to choose a trustee that will take care of your assets while you’re living and distribute them at the time of your death. The trust can also partake in revenue-generating practices and benefit from the fund. The trust fund also remunerates the services of the trustee.
Step 4: Consider The Timing Of When Your Children Receive The Assets
Many people would just decide to give all their assets to their children at their passing. However, this could be an issue, especially if your children still need to be at the right age.
Here, you can decide about the time they can receive the properties. Think carefully about when they can access the funds because they might be too young to manage many finances. Stipulating that the children shall receive their share when they reach maturity can be a reasonable consideration.
Step 5: Write An Instruction Letter
A letter of instruction presents any direction you want your family to know that is not written on your will. For example, you can include in your instruction letter the clothes you want to be buried with or how they will prepare the obituary. Or, you might have essential passwords that only your trusted family can know.
Step 6: Understanding How Estate Taxes Work
When your assets are distributed, someone you appoint must pay a significant amount of estate taxes. The tax rate implemented for each state varies according to their laws. However, California has no existing rules when it comes to estate taxes. Hence, residents must abide by the federal taxing system regarding estate taxes.
Step 7: Maintaining Your Estate Plan Updated
Now that you’ve set up your estate plan, what’s best is to take a look into it from time to time. For example, you can check it every five years to see if it’s still how you want your estate to be planned. Updating your will with the recent changes to tax laws can also be a significant factor.
People come and go. Someone in your will may have lost significance in your life after several years, so updating your will can avoid this conflict.
Can You Prepare Estate Planning All By Yourself?
Today, Do-It-Yourself estate planning has been rapidly emerging as a trend. Many websites have offered this service of generating documents using computers that resemble the same quality you would get from professionals. This kind of service guarantees a lower cost of estate planning than you would typically pay.
However, you should know that opting for DIY estate planning services will have implications. Estate planning is a complex documentation process. Even lawyers focused on this practice area still have to think twice due to its complexity.
So, is DIY estate planning for you? For some, the answer could be yes. If you only have a small portion of matters you will leave behind to only a few people, it may be the most practical to use online services. However, if your estate planning involves a massive amount of assets and people involved, the risk is high if you will avail of this kind of service.
Hence, the best option is to ask a seasoned estate planning lawyer for this service. They know the nooks and crannies of this field. Thus, they can customize an estate plan that fits your unique circumstance. After all, you want to ensure that your family is well taken care of after your passing. So it would be better to leave this planning to those who have years of experience in handling this process.
Weiner Law Estate Planning Services
As mentioned above, hiring lawyers who focus on estate planning is still the best option you can consider. Weiner Law offers estate planning services that provide a comprehensive, caring, and complete estate planning process.
Estate planning at Weiner Law is unique due to three primary reasons.
They Strive To Understand Your Ultimate Needs
Weiner Law cares for your family. They treat each client differently based on their family dynamics. They will understand your family’s needs and background to help you throughout estate planning. They will ensure that all your wishes for your loved ones will be protected and realized.
They Build Personal Relationships With Their Clients
Weiner Law wants to ensure that everyone in your family is comfortable working with their attorneys. They want to ensure that when the time comes, your family and their lawyers will have a smooth process of executing the estate. If you have adult children, it is in their best interest to get to know them better and establish a good working relationship.
They Care Not Only For Your Documents But For Your Assets As Well
Several estate planning processes become unsuccessful because executors fail to take care of their assets. Weiner Law will make sure that won’t happen. They will ensure that you have all the proper documents and that your assets are transferred accordingly.