Don't put off planning your estate any longer. Use this estate planning checklist to be sure your affairs are in order.
Checklists are highly effective tools for prioritizing important tasks and getting them done, especially for projects that seem to be hopelessly procrastinated, such as estate planning.
Most people imagine estate planning to be an arduous and complicated process.
Then they are surprised when they learn that it’s fairly straightforward and, when it’s completed, they experience a great sense of well-being.
Your Estate Planning Checklist
It begins with a simple checklist of the five essential elements for estate planning.
1. Create a Will
If nothing else gets done, a will is the most important element of an estate plan that must be in place to ensure that your wishes are known and carried out after you die.
In it, are your specific instructions which are to be followed by an executor whom you designate.
Without a will, the disposition of your assets and the assignment of guardian arrangements are controlled by the courts.
2. Asset Titling
One of the easiest ways to ensure the quick transfer of assets is to register them as Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS).
At the death of one of the joint owners their portion of the asset automatically transfers to the other joint owner.
More commonly used by married couples, JTWROS can be used between any two parties.
While the use of JTWROS is a convenient method for transferring assets, the tax and legal implications may vary depending on where you reside.
3. Power of Attorney
With people living longer today, health issues are more likely to arise that could affect their ability to make their own decisions about their finances.
Unlike a will, which communicates your wishes after your death, a power of attorney provides explicit instructions for the management of your finances and assets while you are alive, but mentally or physically incapacitated.
4. Living Will
Similar to a power of attorney, a living will communicates your wishes as to how decisions are to be made concerning your medical condition.
5. Living Trust
The difference between a living trust and a will is that one provides for the transfer of your assets while you are alive and the other after you die.
When you establish a living trust, you transfer ownership of your asset to the trust.
As trustee, you (or anyone you designate) can continue to manage the assets and your family can benefit from income generated from the trust.
A living trust is especially useful for transferring assets such as real property or a business where continuity of control is important.
Once you have completed the essential elements of your estate planning checklist, you should keep it readily available.
Review each item periodically to ensure that your estate plan continues to meet your needs and reflect your wishes.