Thinking about your estate plan can be grim. None of us likes to contemplate how things will be after we pass away. However, the Des Moines Register article "Your checklist for creating or reviewing your estate plan" reminds us that it's important to not postpone estate planning. A comprehensive, up-to-date estate plan is the surest way to be certain that your wishes are carried out when you die.
Whether you're creating your first estate plan or updating your current plan, review your estate plan every three or four years or after a significant milestone. Also, consider these four steps.
Identify your estate plan goals. Before creating or reviewing your estate plan, figure out what you're trying to do. Do you want to make sure there's support for your children? Do you want to make sure your spouse is OK if you pass away unexpectedly? Do you want to give to charities? These goals will determine what planning strategies you'll need for your circumstances.
Take inventory of your assets. With your estate plan, take inventory of the items in your estate, such as real estate, investments, family heirlooms and life insurance policies. And also note your current liabilities, like a mortgage or credit card debt.
Consider what estate planning elements you need. A will? For sure, but there may be other items you need, such as a trust if you have a lot of assets that may be subject to probate. Also, a health care directive and power of attorney provide instructions if you become incapacitated. Talk with your estate planning attorney to be sure you have these in place to help carry out the goals of your estate plan.
Choose a personal representative. The personal representative or executor is responsible for settling your estate's affairs. It's a big job, so be sure to select an individual who's familiar with your situation, is able to carry out all of the tasks associated with the role, and is willing to take this on.
This isn't a full list of important estate planning principles. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to find out about specific strategies that may be best for you and your loved ones.
Reference: Des Moines Register (February 1, 2016) "Your checklist for creating or reviewing your estate plan"