Estate planning isn’t just for the rich. An estate plan is something everyone should have.
Why? Here are four main reasons…
1. It makes sure YOU get to decide who gets what you leave behind.
2. It reduces taxes on what you leave behind.
3. It reduces the chances of legal and/or family battles over what you leave behind.
4. If you have kids (or other dependents), you’ll be able to name who gets custody of them in the case of an early death.
Estate planning can seem like an intimidating process. Especially if you’re not really familiar with what it is or how the process works. In this post, we aim to make this process less scary by sharing an easy to follow estate planning checklist for seniors (or any age for that matter!).
Estate Planning Checklist for Seniors
1. Determine your goals and why you’re creating an estate plan. Ask yourself why you’re creating this plan. Is it because you want to provide for your family? Do you want to protect your assets? Do you have a legacy to protect? Are you preparing for incapacity? Any and all of these are great reasons to create an estate plan.
2. Make a list of all the assets you want to include in your plan – yes, even if you do not have a lot of assets – you still need a plan in place. This means considering all – and we mean all – the property and money that you own. Even properties that you may jointly with others should be included in the plan.
3. Consider the risks to your assets then create a plan to protect them. Whatever happens in your life, you need to consider the risks you might face and use your estate plan to mitigate those risks. This way, no matter what happens, you can protect your legacy and your loved ones.
4. Create a will. If you haven’t done this already, now’s a great time to start. State who you want to inherit your properties and name a guardian to care for your children should something happen to you.
5. Create a trust. A living trust is a must. This will help protect your survivors and save them a lot of time and money because they no longer have to go through probate court.
6. Write your health care directives. Should the time come that you are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself, a healthcare directive will help. In this, you will choose someone you trust to make decisions you can’t.
7. Create a financial power of attorney. Another thing you need to create is a durable power of attorney for your finances. This way, you can give someone you trust the authority to handle your finances and properties. It comes in handy should the time come that you no longer have the ability to handle your own affairs.
8. Protect your children’s property too! If you have any minor children or successors, you need to name a trusted adult to manage any money and property they will inherit.
9. File beneficiary forms with financial institutions. Your beneficiary will help your survivors skip the probate process and all of your estates, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts will be transferred automatically to your beneficiary upon your death.
10. Cover funeral expenses. Set up a payable-on-death account at your bank. Then, you will need to deposit funds into those accounts so you can pay for your funeral and related expenses. This helps you prepare for anything that may come.
11. Make final arrangements. It is also important for you to make your end-of-life wishes known. Should anything happen, do you wish to donate any organs? Do you wish to be buried or cremated? These are important things you need to consider.
12. The final item on our estate planning checklist is to store your documents in a secure location. When the time comes, your executor or your attorney-in-fact should already have access to your documents such as your will, trusts, real estate deeds, insurance policies, certificates of any stocks, bonds, and annuities. You should also list down the information regarding your bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, retirement plans, mutual funds, mortgage loans, credit cards, unpaid taxes, final arrangements, 401(k) accounts, IRAs, and such.