Estate Planning Checklist

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Estate Planning Checklist

If you are in the process of estate planning, you may find the many different aspects of it overwhelming. After all, when you’re making an estate plan, you’re trying to determine what will happen to everything you own after your death, and who will derive the greatest benefit from your assets, which you worked all your life to accumulate. Many decisions, none of them easy ones, must be made, and you might only have one chance to get it right.

What Should I Include in My Estate Planning Checklist?

Everybody’s situation is different, so there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all estate plan. Likewise, it is impossible to make an estate planning checklist that is anything close to comprehensive. That being said, most estate plans have quite a few things in common, so this estate planning checklist includes things that you will almost certainly have to do to create an effective estate plan, but it by no means includes everything you’ll have to do.

  1. Discuss your plans with your family: you should, obviously, make sure that your family (and other people with an interest in your estate plan) are fully informed of your plans, and have had an opportunity to give their input.
  2. Write a will: A will is usually the central component of an estate plan checklist. It is a document that, after your death, transfers legal ownership of your property to any beneficiaries you want. More importantly, it also allows you to state who you want to be the legal guardian of your children if they are still minors when you die.
  3. Health care directives:  You should make a “living will,” which is a document that lays out your wishes with respect to medical care, in case you later become unable to make such decisions. It is also important to discuss your healthcare preferences with your family beforehand, including your decision on when, and under what circumstances, you would wish to be taken off of life support, if it comes to that.
  4. Financial power of attorney: “Power of attorney” is a legal arrangement that allows someone to make certain decisions for you, on your behalf. You should grant power of attorney to a trusted friend or family member, so they can make financial and legal decisions on your behalf, if you become unable to. Obviously, you should discuss your wishes with this person beforehand, and make sure that you have your lawyer draft the power of attorney document so that it does not actually take effect until and unless you become incapacitated/
  5. Make your bank account “payable on death”: A simple way to pass your money to your children (or any beneficiary you choose) upon your death is to make your bank account “payable on death.” This is an agreement between you and your bank, under which ownership of your bank account will be transferred to a person of your choice upon your death.
    How Can An Estate Planning Lawyer Help?

As you might imagine, there are many other things that you should do when making an estate plan. The first thing you should do is speak with a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney.

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Last Modified: 11-08-2013 02:53 PM PST

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