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Estate Planning Checklist

It’s the rare person who’s really excited to start estate planning. The process requires you to think about and talk about what you want to happen at the end of your life, which a lot of us naturally find difficult to do.  It’s worth the discomfort to know that you’ve put plans in place to support your loved ones when you’re gone. Still, the process can be daunting, and there’s a lot that can go into it. Here’s an estate planning checklist to make getting started a little easier.

Getting Started with Estate Planning

Don’t wait to reach a certain milestone or age before starting the estate planning process. Even young people with modest assets can get value from estate planning. If you have dependents and/or own property or other assets, it’s especially important not to delay estate planning. This process allows you to prepare for the worst case scenario, so the sooner you start, the better. Beyond protecting material assets, establishing a Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Proxy can protect your wishes in the event the unexpected happens

You may need to gather certain documents regarding your tax history, insurance policies, property ownership and other financial matters. Your estate planning professionals can help you determine what documents you should bring with you for any meetings.

Estate Planning Checklist: Documents You Might Need

The estate planning process should be unique to each person. Your needs, wants, family structure and assets are all factors that affect what type of plans you put in place. That said, the estate planning process typically involves creating some of the same basic documents.

  • A Last Will and Testament If you don’t already have a valid will, your estate planning professionals will likely suggest drafting one now. Even someone with modest assets should have a will. This document can be used to clarify your wishes around end-of-life decisions and to protect your loved ones after you’re gone. You may name your chosen executor, who will oversee the distribution of your assets, and state your wishes around how you want those assets distributed. Parents of young children may also name their chosen guardians for the children, in the event that the parents die while the children are minors. Parents may also use their wills to name guardians for disabled adult children. Your will may need to be updated many times over the course of your life.
  • Powers of Attorney A power of attorney allows you to appoint a person or persons to make certain kinds of decisions on your behalf, in the event that you’re not able to make them for yourself. There are several types of ways these documents can be set up, and several purposes they can be used to fulfill. During estate planning you might create a financial power of attorney that allows your appointed person, called an attorney-in-fact, to manage your assets if you become incapacitated. You may also create a medical power of attorney or advance directive, in which you can state your wishes around medical and end-of-life care.
  • Trusts Trusts are a flexible and common tool used by estate planning professionals to serve a variety of purposes. Some people establish living trusts that they use to manage assets while they’re still alive. Some establish irrevocable trusts that are designed to minimize estate taxes when they die. Trusts can be used to provide for children, support charities, shield assets from creditors, bypass probate and for several other purposes.

Next Steps

When your estate plan has been drafted, it might be tempting to stick those documents in a drawer and forget about them. Instead, take the opportunity to have some important conversations with loved ones. Make sure you share your estate plans with your spouse and any guardians, executors or attorneys-in-facts you named in your plans.

While you’re running down your estate planning checklist, think about starting conversations with loved ones about how you might fit into their plans. Ask siblings, parents and other relatives if they have up-to-date estate plans. Find out whether you’ve been named as anyone’s executor, attorney-in-fact, guardian to minor children, etc. If any of your loved ones haven’t done estate planning, or haven’t updated their estate planning documents in many years, you could end up being responsible for making some difficult and expensive decisions down the road. Make sure that the people closest to you have made clear their wishes around end-of-life care, for everyone’s sake.

Keep in mind that estate planning isn’t necessarily a one-time event. As your life circumstances change, your plans may need to be adjusted. It may be necessary to revisit your estate planning checklist whenever a family member dies or is born, when your job changes, when you buy or sell property, or experience any other significant life event. 

Estate planning is about both your personal and financial wellbeing. The stakes are high, and you may have many questions and concerns throughout the process. Our holistic approach means we’ll help you evaluate your family’s risk factors from every angle, which might include estate planning needs. How can Sachetta & Callahan help you plan for what will come next? Contact us today to start the conversation.