How Can I Prepare For Estate Planning?

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Prepare for Estate Planning 101

There’s more to estate planning than simply writing a will. Accounting for all of your assets and wishes will ensure your plan is executed smoothly after your death. So, how do you prepare for estate planning? What is the process and how do I get started? Thorough planning means accounting for all of your assets and ensuring they transfer as smoothly as possible to the people or entities you wish to receive them. Along with implementing your plan, you must make sure others know about it and understand your wishes.

Checklist for Estate Planning

A quick check list to prepare for estate planning includes:

  • Take inventory of your belongings
  • Make a last will and testament
  • Find a trusted estate executor
  • Consider a living trust
  • Opt for a power of attorney
  • Write a living will
  • Prepare for estate tax obligations
  • Get your digital assets in order
  • Make a guide for your executors
  • Revisit your documents periodically

In most instances, your estate-planning attorney will provide a questionnaire to help organize the data and provide the specific information needed for planning. The questionnaire will ask not only about your assets, but also about your citizenship, your family composition, your children and other beneficiaries, your wishes during a disability, a list of the people you might trust to serve as guardians and trustees, and much more. Every question is asked for an important reason, and bears directly on the plan that is designed for you.

You will usually need to gather documentation related to the things you own. For example, you should gather information from your bank and other financial statements, life insurance policies, stock certificates, deeds to real estate, and other titling documents. If you own a business, it will be helpful to have information such as appraised value and details on any business succession plans that are in place.

Next Steps to Prepare for Estate Planning

You may find it easier and faster to enlist the help of your accounting, insurance, and/or financial advisors to help you put together your asset information. The objective is to provide your estate planning attorney with enough information to gain a thorough understanding of what you own, its value, and how things are titled.

Also by way of preparation, you should give some thought to how you would like to dispose of your estate. If you are married, it’s helpful to discuss these issues ahead of time with your spouse. When you know whom you want to benefit, our attorneys and other advisors can counsel you on how to best accomplish your goals.

You should also consider the individuals that you would trust to raise your minor children, to manage your finances and your personal care in the event of disability, and to make medical decisions if and when required. These helpers are critical to the success of your estate plan.