Why is estate planning important?
When planning for our future, especially our family’s future, we often have specific instructions for how and where we want our possessions to be distributed on the occasion of our death. Each state has different regulations and rules about one’s assets after their death. If you do not prepare your own Estate Plan or Will, the government will decided how and to whom your possessions will be given. This is often a long, unfair and saddening process for family members who are already coping with the grief of losing a loved one. To avoid this you should begin by planning a distribution of your assets and belongings in a legal will.
Who needs estate planning or a legal will?
Whatever the circumstances and despite age, estate planning and a legal will is something we should all have prepared. However, knowing how to articulate our wishes or knowing what information is needed can be a difficult task.
Following this 10 Steps for Estate Planing Checklist can help collect and organize the information you need to plan your estate and prepare a will.
10 Steps For Estate Planning
- Family Information
- Financial Information
- Goal Setting
- Legal and Tax Analysis
- Plan Recommendations
- Prepare Documents
- Review Documents
- Execute Documents
- Implement Plan
- Completed Plan
How do I collect the information needed to complete the estate planning checklist?
Whether you have a grand or humble estate, you carry possessions that have sentimental and monetary value to you and your family. There are several different areas from which you should gather information to help organize and prepare the assets you leave behind. It can be a little overwhelming at first glance. Not to worry, we will take each step and guide you through a series of checklists that will help you organize your information.
What family and personal information do I need to collect?
The Estate Planning Legal Identification Fact Sheet is a checklist that will include your personal information such as legal name, social security number, date of birth, phone numbers and marital status. You will also need (if applicable) your spouses personal information and any children or grandchild’s legal names and dates of birth.
The checklist will cover communicating your wants, reducing state income taxes and protecting your family, creating an executor and trustee to your will, tax exclusions, guardianship for children and similar topics.
By asking yourself these questions, you have begun the process of protecting, preserving and managing your estate.
What types financial information do I need to collect?
When putting together your Estate Checklist and Will you need to include all the information about your investments, assets and liabilities (debts).You should include:
- Banking Information: The name of your bank and types of accounts you hold and the name on the accounts.
- Life Insurance Information: The name and type of current policy, the location and value of the policy in whole.
- Automobile Information: The make, model and insurance on the vehicle(s), lien(s), title(s) and loan amounts.
- Real Estate Information: The location, ownership, loan, tax assessments, purchase dates and approx. value.
The Statement of Assets Checklist will also cover stocks and bond information, professional and business information as well as other titled assets.
You can gather the information you need from your bank, broker, loan agency, or financial institutions if you do not have it yourself.
How can I determine my overall estate value?
Once you have gathered all of the information for your properties, assets and liabilities you will put them together to get a Total Gross Estate Value.
By using a Gross Estate Calculator you will be able to determine your Estate’s total net worth. It will include real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, business ownerships, personal properties and insurance policies.
What about personal responsibilities and family heirlooms?
We have included a Gift Mark Checklist which helps you outline your assets distributed.
Question you should ask yourself:
- Are there certain people in your family or close friends who you would like to give family heirlooms?
- Do you want a certain person to take over your family business?
- Are you currently a care giver to an elderly, disabled or minor person? Who do you want to pass on the responsibility to?
These and similar questions are very important and are covered in the Personal Finance and Business Gift Mark sections.
Now let’s think about important aspects of your life that you want to pass on. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Are there certain values you want to encourage? Are there places you want to visit with your family? The Family Gift Mark checklist gives examples of questions like these and offers inspiration to help you establish the things that are important to you and your family.
How can I assure that my estate plan and will are qualified as Legal?
Once you have gathered and calculated your entire estate plan, there are a few options in the legalizing of your will. You can have a tax adviser or estate lawyer go over your plan to insure that all state, tax and legal issues are taken care of. Qualified legal and tax advisers are essential to a well-crafted estate plan especially if your estate is complicated or large in scale.
If you have a simple estate you may wish to complete and legalize your estate plan and will with out the help from legal advisers. To legalize your will, it needs to be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses, who must, also, sign. Always verify with your state the particulars. For example: the state of Vermont requires three signatures.
The witnesses should not be persons who are left as beneficiaries in your will. You must be sure to add your signature to the end of the will after the witnesses have signed. Make sure that your executor and other interested parties have copies of your will.
By planning your Estate and Will, you are preserving your wealth for future generations. You have worked hard to earn and collect these assets, to build financial stability and security for yourself and your family, you want to make sure that after your death you can continue to do the same.