The experienced estate planning attorneys at Bodie, Attorneys at Law outline steps to guide you in preparing your estate to best support the loved ones you leave behind.
Unfortunately immortality is not a realistic aspiration in 2015. With that, it is important that you have a plan in place in the unlikely event of your death. Additionally, you should have a descriptive record of your wishes to ensure that they are met after you are gone. If you have procrastinated your estate planning, the following list may navigate you in the right direction.
- Make a physical and non-physical items inventory.
Go through the inside and outside of your home and make a list of all items of significant value. Be sure the list includes the home itself, in addition to expensive electronics, jewelry, collectibles and vehicles. Next, tally your non-physical assets including brokerage accounts, 401 (k) plans, IRA assets, bank accounts and life insurance policies. In other words, include non-physical items you own on paper or entitlements predicated on your death.
- Select a trusted estate administrator.
Your estate administrator will be responsible for following strict procedure following your death. This step is very important and it is best to select a qualified individual who has your best interest in mind. Contemplate all qualified individuals who could assume this role and who has the ability to mitigate the stress of settling your estate.
- Create a credit cards/debts list.
Create a separate list for open credit cards and unsettled debt. This must include auto loans, existing mortgages, and home equity lines of credit. Make a habit of running a free credit report at least once a year and be sure to close out any credit cards that are no longer in use.
- Send a copy of your assets to your estate administrator.
When your lists are finalized, date and sign them and make multiple copies of each. The original should then be given to your estate administrator. A second copy can be given to your spouse or a trusted family member, and a final copy should remain with you, or kept in a safe place.
- Visit an experienced estate plan attorney.
As you grow older, considerations regarding long-term care insurance and protecting your estate from a large tax bill will require more attention. It is important to hire an experienced estate planning attorney as they are fully equipped to handle the legalities of your will and estate. An attorney will be able to give you guidance on issues pertaining to your estate that you may not have considered otherwise. Having someone by your side to assist you through the process can mean the difference between having your wishes met and having them disregarded.
- Create a will.
Contrary to common belief, it is important that anyone over the age of 18 have a will. This is used for distribution of your assets and could prevent disagreement and confusion among heirs. Again, an estate planning attorney can help you draft a complete and legally binding will.
- Initiate important estate plan documents.
At a minimum, you need to create a will; assign a power of attorney; designate a healthcare surrogate; organize and manage trusts; draft a living will; and establish guardianship for your children and/or pets. Again, this process may be smoother with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Be sure that all concerned individuals have copies of the relevant documents pertaining to these measures.
- Review and update your documents accordingly.
Reviewing and revising your will at least once every two years is necessary. Laws and regulations constantly change, and at some point the document may no longer reflect what it once had. Additionally, be sure to update documents after life-altering events such as marriage, divorce, child birth, etc.
If you follow these simple steps, it may ease the burden of your passing and allow your relatives and loved ones to focus their energy on mourning. For more information regarding your estate plan, contact experienced estate planning attorneys at Bodie, Attorneys at Law in Maryland today.