What Are Some of the Things My Estate Plan Should Provide for After My Death?

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Many people believe that having an estate plan simply means drafting a will or a trust. However, there is much more to include in your estate planning to make certain all of your assets are transferred seamlessly to your heirs upon your death. There are specific estate planning documents, like healthcare power of attorney and will or trust. A successful estate plan also includes provisions allowing your family members to access or control your assets, should you become unable to do so yourself. But what are the items my estate plan should provide?

Here is an estate planning checklist of items every estate plan should include:

  1. Will/trust
  2. Durable power of attorney
  3. Beneficiary designations
  4. Letter of intent
  5. Healthcare power of attorney
  6. Guardianship designations

That’s the Specifics but what are the things my estate plan should provide that I might forget

Make Sure Your Named Beneficiaries Are Current

Be sure to check whom you have named as your beneficiary for any IRAs, 401(k) plans, bank accounts and insurance policies you own. Often, choices made at the beginning of a career are left unchanged even as people get married, have children and go through other life changes. It’s easy to lose track of bank accounts, retirement plans from former jobs and insurance policies purchased along the way. If you don’t update your named beneficiaries, those assets will go to the individuals named on the documents you signed long ago, which supersedes any directives in your will.

Don’t Forget to Plan Your Funeral

Part of creating a complete estate plan is to think through how and where you want to be buried. Consider whether you want to buy a cemetery plot and prepay burial expenses. If you are a current or former member of the military, you may be entitled to a Veterans burial allowance. No matter what you decide, be sure to share your wishes with the executor of your estate and family members

Who Can Help Build an Estate Plan?

It’s possible to craft your own will using online guides at little to no cost. You can also get wording from your state’s statutes for a valid living will or power of attorney for health care or financial matters.

However, it’s generally a good idea to hire an attorney (and possibly an accountant) familiar with estate law to guide you through the process. This is especially true if you have a large estate with many assets to allocate. Although legal fees range between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, estate planning professionals can help you structure your estate and end-of-life planning to meet your wishes, take care of your loved ones and minimize any tax burden.

The goals that we hear most often from clients for “after I’m gone” include:

  • I want to give what I have to the people I care about, with timing and protections that will benefit them the most.
  • I want those in charge of my affairs to be the people I pick, based on trust and my belief that they are best able to act for the benefit of everyone involved.
  • I want to minimize the expenses of identifying, determining the value of, and transferring what I own.
  • I want to make sure my family has the most flexibility in dealing with my debts.
  • I want to avoid taxes as much as possible.
  • I want everything finished as quickly as possible.
  • I want my family to continue to rely upon my trusted advisors.
  • I want to keep information about me, my assets, and my plans (such as “who gets what”) private.
  • I want to know that the cost of administration is not “open-ended” but instead is controlled and limited.
  • I want my loved ones to know what to expect. I want them to be brought together through my planning, not driven apart.
  • I want my wisdom to be passed along with my wealth.