If the time has come for you to give serious consideration to estate planning, you may be wondering how to begin.
Your goal should be to become well organized by the time you meet with your attorney, and to do that, you should make lists. Here is a group of five to start you off:
1. Financial information
Make a list of your assets, or, if you prefer, create a spreadsheet with the market values. List receivables and debts. Add your bank and investment accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Include your home and any other real property plus titled property like your car and boat.
2. Who should inherit
The next list is about your heirs. List all the people who should receive an inheritance, not only relatives, but special friends. Add to this list any educational, religious or charitable organizations that you wish to name as beneficiaries.
3. Naming your personal representative
Jot down the names of prospective candidates whom you would want to serve as the executor of your will or the trustee of your trust. The final choice should be someone whom you are confident will protect your assets, pay your final debts and taxes and carry out your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate.
4. In charge of healthcare decisions
Just as you compile a list of possible executors or trustees, you should also prepare a list of people whom you feel would make responsible healthcare decisions on your behalf if you should become ill or incapacitated.
5 Thoughts and questions
As you go about organizing information, make a separate list of thoughts and questions to discuss with your attorney. Remember that estate planning is a process, and the more assets you have, the more complex an undertaking it becomes. The good news is that becoming organized will allow you to get to the heart of that process quickly using the lists you have taken the time to put together.