Creating a proper estate plan safeguards your assets and ensures your wishes are honored after passing. Understanding estate planning essentials can ensure you and your loved ones are cared for, although it can seem overwhelming. Regardless of age, having an estate plan is crucial to protect your assets and ensure your wishes are respected after death. Estate planning involves carefully considering multiple aspects, such as finances, healthcare decisions, inheritance tax laws, etc.
Step 1: Gather and Organize Documents
Gathering and organizing documents is one of the first steps in estate planning. Having all pertinent documents in one place makes the process easier and more efficient for you, and the agents you designate. It’s essential to have original copies of important documents, such as wills, trusts, insurance policies, powers of attorney, and asset ownership information. In addition, you should document any financial accounts or investments with up-to-date details on the beneficiaries or owners listed on each account. Moreover, it’s helpful to list current debts, including loans and mortgages, so the debts can be settled quickly upon death.
It is also essential to document any digital assets such as bank accounts, investment portfolios, or cryptocurrency wallets for easy access by a designated person. This documentation includes recording usernames and passwords for various online accounts like email addresses or social media platforms and any digital content, such as photos or videos, which family members may wish to keep after the owner has passed. Securely storing this information is essential to protect those involved’s privacy while allowing access when needed.
Step 2: A Living Trust.
A living trust is a document that states an individual’s wishes on how they would like to distribute their assets after death. It also gives instructions on who should act as the estate executor, who will care for any minor children, and if there are any specific funerals. To be considered valid, the trust must meet specific requirements – such as being written pursuant to state laws and signed by two witnesses. Additional requirements may also exist, such as having a notary present when signing the document, depending on where you live.
While a trust can cover basic information about assets, many people find it beneficial to pair a living trust with other estate planning documents, and write out specific wishes in their trust. These additional documents can help ensure that all instructions are followed correctly and protect against potential disputes between heirs over the inheritance.
Step 3: Power of Attorneys
A general power of attorney is a legal document that assigns another person the authority to act on an individual’s behalf in personal and business matters. If the individual becomes incapacitated, this document enables the assigned person to make decisions such as paying bills, filing taxes, managing investments, and handling bank transactions. On the other hand, a healthcare power of attorney, also known as a medical power of attorney, details an individual’s wishes regarding the medical treatment they would like to receive should they become incapacitated. Typically paired with a living will, these documents include information such as whether or not the person wants life-sustaining treatments, organ donation, and other preferences regarding their medical care. A general power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney are essential for estate planning, allowing individuals to fulfill their wishes in the event of incapacity or death.
Step 4: Update Beneficiaries
You should consider all changes that have occurred in life when updating your beneficiaries. Changes in life can include marriages, divorces, births or adoptions of children and grandchildren, or a change in financial situation. Updating your beneficiaries is critical to ensure you distribute your assets according to your wishes after death.
While updating beneficiaries, make sure that all names are stated as proper legal names, such as the legal names that appear on birth certificates and Social Security Cards. In addition, it would be best to verify that you have current and up-to-date contact information for each beneficiary so your estate administrator can easily reach them after your passing. The process for updating beneficiaries will vary depending on where you store them. For instance, it is common for institutions, such as banks or investment firms, to use in-house forms to update beneficiaries on accounts. If you bank account is in the name of a living trust, that bank may ask to keep a copy of your trust on file. If you make changes to your trust, you may also need to make changes to your accounts. It is important to communicate with a professional when any life changes happen.
Finally, when making updates to any beneficiary designations, it’s crucial to choose an appropriate executor who will manage the distribution of assets according to your wishes outlined in the estate plan documents. It’s best practice to select someone trustworthy, organized, and reliable, as they will be responsible for seeing everything progress smoothly upon your passing.
Step 5: Make Final Arrangements & Save Copies
Once you have created your estate plan, ensure you appropriately document the arrangements and save copies.
The first step in making final arrangements is to sign the documents. Your estate planning documents must be signed and legally witnessed following your state’s laws. It is also common that your estate planning documents require signature before a licensed notary public.
Once all the paperwork has been completed and signed, store the original documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof lockbox or safety deposit box. You may decide to also provide copies of the documents to any beneficiaries mentioned in the will or living trust and other advisors involved in your estate plans, such as attorneys or accountants. Additionally, ensure anyone needing access knows where the originals are stored so they can find them when needed.
Alta Estate: Call us for all of your Estate planning needs!
At Alta Estate, we understand that estate planning can be intimidating and complex. We have a team of experienced professionals dedicated to helping you make the best decisions regarding your assets and the people you love. Our services include creating trusts, wills, general power of attorneys, healthcare power of attorneys, living wills, last wills and testaments, and other estate planning documents. We can also provide you with information relating to finances, managing assets to maximize tax benefits, and investing in retirement funds. Additionally, our legal experts are available to counsel on end-of-life issues such as funeral arrangements and asset distribution among beneficiaries. With Alta Estate’s extensive knowledge of estate planning laws, personalized approach, and commitment to customer service, we will consider your wishes every step of the way, giving you peace of mind.
Feel free to call the ALTA Estate Services, LLC office at (520) 797-1400 to learn more about proper and complete estate planning, including the Emergency Telephone Hotline Program afforded to you and your family members at no charge during times of crisis and the other benefits of estate planning described above. Mark Fishbein, Tucson, AZ.
The text above is for general informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. For more information, click Contact Us.
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