Estate planning isn’t exactly an uplifting task, but it becomes necessary once you have a family and any accumulated assets — from a home to an insurance policy. Contrary to popular belief, creating a will isn’t only for older people. Even if you don’t own property, you still need to plan for your children’s futures in the event that something happens to you. Ultimately, estate planning gives you peace of mind that your family won’t have to deal with financial or other decision-making stresses after your passing.
This estate planning guide will walk you through key steps in three phases. We’ll look at which documents you need now, what should be in place when you pass on, and when you should review and update your wishes. We’ve even converted this guide into a FREE estate planning checklist to help you keep track of where you are in your estate planning journey.
Have an open and honest conversation with your estate planning attorney about what you hope to achieve from this process. Perhaps you’re aiming to ensure your loved ones aren’t left with any financial worries, or maybe keeping your home or business in the family is your biggest concern. Whatever your goals are, they can be achieved through careful and thorough estate planning.
Even if you don’t consider yourself “wealthy,” you still have more assets than you may think, such as:
Consider checking with your bank to rent a safe deposit box to store these important documents and remember to name a designee who can access it. That person will need to know the name of the bank, account number, box number, and key location.
Typically, the beneficiaries of your will are your spouse and children, unless you designate otherwise. Work with your estate planning attorney to understand exactly how your assets will be distributed upon your passing. For example, if you own a home, you may have a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship in your deed, which means your spouse owns the house if you pass away — not your kids.
You have a couple options to alleviate financial stress on your loved ones after your death:
Estate planning isn’t something you do once and then never think about it again. Instead, think of your will as a living document that needs regular attention and updating. Consider these tips for reviewing your plan on a consistent basis:
Even if you put together your estate planning documents by yourself to save money, it’s still important for an expert to make sure everything is properly filled out and the directives do what you intend. Consult an expert every time you make a change to your plans.
This doesn’t mean you must show your kids your account statements, but all family members should know, in general, about your most current plans to avoid conflicts after your passing and to make sure your wishes are carried out.
You never know where life will take you, so don’t forget to update your will if these circumstances occur:
Check that your life insurance plan adequately meets your family’s changing needs and consider getting Short-term Care insurance to pay for health care costs in case you or your spouse have an unexpected injury or illness.
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Kelly Rayburn, AVP national sales and distribution at Wellabe, and Olga Villaverde, from Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act, explain the importance of preplanning your funeral. While a difficult subject, advance planning can alleviate financial and emotional burdens for your family members.
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