Estate Planning Checklist

Most people dread estate planning as it is somewhat grim in nature. However, it is in your interest to hire an estate planning attorney today rather than proceed without a plan. If you have an estate planning checklist, the process will prove that much quicker and organized. If you are like most people, you find estate planning undesirable so hastening its completion will be quite the boon. Your checklist ensures nothing of importance has been overlooked. This checklist also guarantees your nuanced desires are respected after you pass away. Estate planning checklists essentially cover who gets specific assets, when those assets are doled out and the logic for such distribution. After all, it is better for you to provide this potentially disruptive guidance rather than let family members engage in dramatic legal battle that has the potential to ruin family ties for good.

Importance of Being Prepared / Estate Planning

The last thing you want is to pass away without estate planning in place and end up with family members arguing over who gets what. Estate planning goes beyond wills and trusts. This in-depth approach to asset protection and distribution ensures all items of value are transferred in a timely and seamless manner to heirs upon your passing. In fact, truly comprehensive estate planning also provides detailed provisions to empower family members to control assets in the event you become mentally or physically incapacitated.

Even if you are not wealthy, you should still have a detailed estate plan in place. Otherwise, there is no guarantee your money and other assets will be distributed as you desire after departing this plane of existence. Fail to spend the little bit of time and money necessary for estate planning and probate court will determine how your assets are distributed. Sadly, probate courts often transfer assets to parties that do not deserve them or parties the decedent does not hold in high regard.

Commonly Used Documents

Estate planning requires much more than a will. Truly comprehensive estate planning includes trusts, letters of intent, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, guardianship designations and beneficiary designations. In some cases, it makes sense to obtain long-term care insurance to provide coverage for old age. Some take out lifetime annuities to ensure they are provided with a steady stream of income prior to death. Life insurance will also prove helpful if your aim is to provide beneficiaries with money without passing through the dreaded probate court.

Gathering Paperwork

Estate planning is predicated on a number of documents. The estate planning attorney and the executor of your estate will require an abundance of information pertaining to insurance, real estate, investments, taxes, etc. It is up to you to gather these documents. If you currently have a will, trust, real estate deed, insurance policies, stock/bond/annuity certificates, credit card statements, mortgage statements and/or other loan documents, bring them to your meeting with the estate planning attorney. Furthermore, information pertaining to bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, mutual funds, retirement plans, 401(k) accounts and other investments will also be necessary. If you have paperwork pertaining to your funeral's prepayment and/or instructions for final arrangements, bring those along too.

Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney

Do not make the common mistake of hiring the first estate planning attorney you find in an online search. Do some homework on prospective estate planning attorneys. Read client write-ups posted to online review directories. Ask friends and colleagues whether they are content with their estate planning attorney's work. Be careful when selecting your estate planning attorney and you will secure the services of a true professional willing to sweat all the subtleties to ensure your assets are distributed exactly as desired upon your passing.

Provide Guidance for the Executor

A Statement of Desires provides you with the opportunity to provide in-depth instruction for the executor you select. Though this is not a legally-binding instrument, it has the potential to shape the manner in which your assets are handled after you pass away. This document should contain all the information necessary to easily identify and pinpoint the location of financial accounts, credit cards, mortgages, insurance policies, automobile loans and beyond. The document should also feature the names, phone numbers and email addresses of relatives as well as close friends so they can be notified after you pass away. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to detail where assets such as storage units and safe deposit boxes are located. If you have specific instructions for your funeral ceremony, organ donation, burial or cremation, let them be known in this document.