With Halloween on the horizon and ghosts and ghouls decorating the streets, we can’t help but think about the afterlife. One day, we’ll all be six feet under and while the zombies in the storefronts might indicate otherwise, we probably won’t be periodically resurrected to check in on everyone—and even if we were, our undead presence might not be that comforting. A much better way to protect your family is to execute an estate plan and so if you don’t have one, let this season spook you into fixing that today.
Ten Steps to Executing an Estate Plan
Executing your estate plan has nothing to do with executions, per se. If we’re staying on theme, though, you might think of it as a sort of affectionate way to haunt your loved ones from beyond the grave. An estate plan protects your family for years, sometimes generations, after you pass by building a legacy out of your life’s work. Here’s how you get started:
Inventory Your Assets
Estate planning begins with taking stock of all you own. List all financial accounts, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, collectibles, electronics, sentimental items, etc. Make copies of your list and note what you might wish to do with each item.
Don’t Overlook the Digital
With our lives lived increasingly online, all of us have digital assets. Maybe you’ve invested in cryptocurrencies; maybe you curate a social media channel; maybe you have a book stored on your laptop. Whatever your digital footprint, make sure it is accounted for in your planning.
Tally Your Debts
You’ll one day die but your debts will remain to haunt your loved ones. In administering your estate, they’ll need to know what you owe and to whom and so it’d crucial to keep a record of this information.
Review Retirement Accounts and Insurance Policies
Beneficiary designations recorded on your retirement accounts and life insurance policy trump anything said in your will. Nonetheless, discrepancies can create conflict and so you’ll want to keep this information in mind.
Establish Transfer on Death (TOD) Designations
Not all assets need to pass via your will (which implies probate). Bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc. can have a TOD designation included allowing them to pass directly to beneficiaries.
Talk to Your Family
Estate planning involves the interests of all your loved ones and so as you navigate the process, you want to seek their input and share your thinking.
Divvy Up the Work
As you build your plan you need to think about who is best suited to serve as executor of your estate, financial power of attorney, and healthcare representative, among other roles. This means talking to loved ones and discussing expectations and responsibilities.
Find an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
The earlier you involve an experienced estate planning attorney, the smoother your planning will go. There’s nothing hard about estate planning, but there’s plenty of opportunity for oversight. A trusted attorney saves you time and money by ensuring you avoid mistakes and make the most of all available tools.
Keep Everything Up-to-Date
Your estate plan is a living set of documents that changes throughout your life. Every few years and after every major event it’s important to review and update your plan.