Estate planning is not only about preparing for the end of your life, but also ensuring your wishes are followed if you become incapacitated. Your comprehensive estate plan should follow this 10-point checklist:
- Draft a last will and testament: Clearly state how you want your assets to be distributed after your death, and name an executor to administer your estate.
- Consider trusts: Establish a living trust to transfer property to heirs without going through probate, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.
- Appoint a power of attorney: Designate someone to manage your financial and legal affairs if you become unable to do so. Ensure your spouse has this authority if desired, as it is not automatic.
- Set up medical directives: Assign a durable power of attorney for healthcare to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. Also, create a living will to outline your preferences for medical care and life support.
- Name a guardian for minor children: Ensure your children will be cared for by someone you trust in the event of your death or incapacity.
- Establish a business succession plan: If you own a business, outline how it will be managed or transferred upon your death or incapacity.
- Compile an inventory of assets: Document all financial and bank accounts, insurance policies, and contact information for professionals, such as your estate planning attorney, accountant, and financial advisor.
- Address digital assets: Determine what should happen to your social media and digital assets when you pass away. Check if platforms offer a “legacy” option for others to access and manage your accounts.
- Prepare funeral instructions: In a separate document from your will, specify your preferences for your memorial service, burial or cremation, and any arrangements you’ve already made.
- Store important documents securely: Keep copies of your estate planning documents, mortgage, property deeds, and titles in a fire and waterproof home safe. Ensure family members know where to find these documents in case of an emergency.
Remember, estate planning is an ongoing process. Revisit your plan every three to five years to ensure it still aligns with your goals and accounts for any changes in your life circumstances or the law. Consult with an estate planning attorney to help guide you through this process and ensure your plan is comprehensive and legally sound.