Most of us want to leave something meaningful to the people and/or causes we care about most. It could be money, a lasting gift or scholarship, special possessions, or just a way to make it easier for others in or after our final stage of life. Estate planning makes things clear and legally certain for our loved ones. Taking the time now to create and regularly review your estate plan documents can give you the peace of mind that things will be done according to your wishes, no matter how life goes.
Step One: Choose who will make decisions if you become incapacitated. Without the documents below, those you love will have to ask the courts for a guardianship or conservatorship and may have the burden of making vital decisions without knowing your wishes.
Ask the people you name if they have the time, experience, and ability to manage these responsibilities on your behalf. You may want to consult with a trusted financial advisor and a qualified tax advisor for recommendations as you put together and update your plan.
Step 2: Decide who will receive your savings, investments, property, and other important items you own. Planning for the transfer of your assets and belongings ensures they will be passed along the way you would want.
- Will: Usually the main document in your estate plan that states your major wishes.
- Executor: Makes sure your wishes are accomplished as stated in your will.
- Guardian: Is legally responsible for a minor child’s daily and long term needs and care.
- Beneficiary: Receives assets like life insurance, retirement accounts, and sometimes property instead of transferring them through your will.
- Joint Tenant with Right of Survivorship: Receives your jointly-owned property directly.
- Revocable Living Trust: Transfers assets outside of your will after you pass, and allows you control over assets while you are alive.
Establishing your estate plan documents and keeping them up to date over time is key. Without a plan, your loved ones may not agree about decisions you become unable to make, and state laws where you live will dictate who receives your property. Creating plans for managing and protecting your assets and affairs ensures things will go more smoothly if you are incapacitated and for your loved ones when your life ends.
For more information on creating your estate plan for free, visit freewill.com.