One of the greatest things you can leave your survivors is an organized estate. The time you spend now will help your loved ones to cope later, and will also ensure your wishes will be carried out. Here is a simplified checklist to help you get started on organizing your estate. It’s also a good idea to discuss you plans with your loved ones and the executor of your will. You’ll also want to consult with your legal, financial and tax advisors.
1. Make or Update your Will. A will allows you to determine what happens to your money and possessions when you dies, and who becomes the guardian of your minor children. Otherwise, state laws and courts make those decisions for you.
2. Make a living will. This document can speak for you by outlining the medical procedures you want taken if you become too ill to state your wishes yourself.
3. Create durable powers of attorney. These documents allow you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are two types: one to deal with your personal, legal and financial affairs, and another to deal with health-care decisions.
4. Create a letter of instruction. This document provides a list of instructions for yor survivors to follow. For example, it can spell out funeral wishers, people to contact, and where your will and other key papers can be found. It can also provide information about your financial accounts and activities.
5. Calculate your net worth, including life insurance proceeds. If you have substantial net worth, consider talking to a tax or financial advisor to determine the steps necessary to minimize of eliminate the impact of federal and state taxes.
6. Establish a trust if appropriate. A trust is a legal entity that holds property designated by you for the benefit of you and your beneficiaries, For example, you might need to setup a trust if you name minor children as your life insurance beneficiaries (legally they are too your to receive proceeds directly).
7. Consider funeral preplanning. Preplanning can relieve stress on your survivors and give you control over the ultimate cost of your funeral. If you are a US military veteran, you may want military honors at your service. Contact your local funeral home or military installation to check on eligibility and availability.
8. Make arrangements for the orderly transfer of business assets. Business owners can predetermine what will happen to assets through legal agreements and life insurance business partners.