Estate planning may be difficult and tedious, which is why so many die without having a plan in place. Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it seems! Seeking legal counsel to help you navigate this procedure is both essential and beneficial.
Below is an estate planning checklist. These bullet points will help you determine requirements, goals, and priorities before meeting with your estate attorney. Walking into your attorney’s office with the information they’ll require anyway—having previously thought through your responses to common questions—will help save time and keep the process streamlined and stress-free.
What do people gain from their estate plan?
Setting objectives for yourself and ensuring that your inheritance is divided according to your preferences is an individual and necessary element of life. Some frequent and important goals to consider before consulting with an estate attorney include:
- Providing for family and loved ones after your death
- Making sure the correct beneficiaries are included
- Asset and estate tax management
- Designating a fiduciary (executor/trustee)
- Designating a guardian for minor children
- Business succession planning
- End-of-life care or incapacity medical requests
- Estate payout instructions
- Other objectives you want met once you are no longer here
What counts as my estate?
Unless otherwise stated, all of your assets—everything you own—become part of your estate after your death. Make a list of all assets you possess:
- Bank accounts
- Real estate holdings
- Digital assets (online accounts)
- Permanent and vacation residences
- Business interests
- Retirement accounts and annuities
- Insurance policies
- Death benefits
- Other items that will have value at your time of passing
What debts are subject to my estate assets?
Unfortunately, outstanding debts do not die with us, but are paid from our estates. Knowing what will most likely need to be paid following your death can allow your attorney to plan more efficiently. Examples of debt you may have are:
- Credit card debt
- Home, auto, or business loans
- Outstanding court judgments/settlements
- Duties to current or previous spouses
- Other debt owed for which you are personally responsible
Who will benefit from my efforts?
In the absence of a final will and testament, a probate court will decide how your inheritance is distributed in accordance with their state’s intestacy statutes. Choosing who you want your assets to go to—and how they are distributed—is led by designating and prioritizing beneficiaries in your will, such as:
- Loved ones
Is medical care and decisions part of the estate planning paradigm?
If you become disabled or become too unwell to make choices for yourself, it is critical to have explicit instructions in place to guarantee that your wishes and preferences regarding healthcare and treatment are followed. A living will containing s your instructions for your care and treatment (for example, you want or object to being placed on a feeding tube or ventilator, etc.), granting someone healthcare power of attorney to act as your agent, and plans for long-term nursing care would be incomplete without careful consideration of these vital concerns. Questions you may ask yourself include:
- Do I want to be placed on a ventilator or other lifesupporting device?
- Do I want to receive medical treatment for an incurable condition?
- Do I want to prolong an inevitable death, or is quality of life more important to me?
- Who do I want making these decisions, family or licensed physicians?
Asking yourself the above questions and gathering the above information before meeting with an estate attorney may assist alleviate your concerns about the procedure while simplifying the attorney’s job. That’s what we call a win-win! We understand that these are difficult things to consider, no one wants to face their death. Planning for your death, on the other hand, may safeguard you, your loved ones, and the assets you’ve spent a lifetime accumulating.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Near You
The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo will assist you with starting your estate plan right now. We are here to help you through the process and ensure that your voice is heard loud and clear in your estate planning paperwork. If you need assistance drafting an estate plan that accounts for your family’s unique needs, contact us.