Creating an estate plan involves several important steps and considerations. Here’s a checklist to guide you through the process of establishing a comprehensive estate plan:
– Determine your estate planning objectives and priorities.
– Consider who you want to inherit your assets and how you want them distributed.
– Think about who should make financial, medical, and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Gather Information:
– Compile a list of your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property.
– Identify your liabilities, such as mortgages, loans, and credit card debts.
– Collect important documents, including deeds, titles, insurance policies, and financial statements.
- Choose Key Decision-Makers:
– Select an executor (personal representative) for your will or a successor trustee for your trust.
– Appoint a healthcare proxy (healthcare agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf.
– Designate someone as your attorney-in-fact for financial and legal matters through a durable power of attorney.
– Draft a last will and testament that specifies your wishes for asset distribution, guardianship of minor children, and appointment of an executor.
– Consider establishing a revocable living trust to manage and distribute your assets, avoiding probate, and providing for incapacity planning.
– Create an advance healthcare directive (including a living will) to outline your medical preferences.
– Prepare a durable power of attorney for financial and legal matters.
- Address Specific Needs:
– If you have minor children, name guardians in your will or trust.
– If you have a loved one with special needs, consider setting up a special needs trust.
– If you own a business, establish a business succession plan.
– Include provisions for charitable giving if you want to make charitable donations as part of your legacy.
- Review and Update Beneficiary Designations:
– Ensure that beneficiary designations on accounts like life insurance, retirement plans, and payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts are current and aligned with your estate plan.
- Consult an Attorney:
– Seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney to help you navigate the legal complexities and ensure your plan complies with applicable laws.
– Discuss tax planning strategies if your estate is subject to estate or inheritance taxes.
- Review and Revise Your Plan:
– Periodically review and update your estate plan, especially after major life events such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, or changes in financial circumstances.
– Confirm that your chosen decision-makers are still willing and able to serve in their roles.
- Store and Communicate Your Plan:
– Safeguard your estate planning documents in a secure location, such as a safe or with your attorney.
– Inform your loved ones and key individuals, including your executor, trustee, and healthcare proxy, about the existence and location of your estate plan.
- Consider Digital Assets:
– Include provisions for your digital assets, such as online accounts, social media profiles, and cryptocurrency holdings, in your estate plan.
- Plan for End-of-Life Care:
– Discuss your end-of-life care preferences with your healthcare proxy and document them in your advance healthcare directive.
- Organize Your Finances:
– Maintain an organized record of your financial accounts, debts, and assets for the benefit of your executor or trustee.
Remember that estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process, and your plan should be tailored to your specific needs and goals. Consulting with an attorney experienced in estate planning can help ensure that your plan is legally sound and effectively addresses your wishes and objectives.
The law office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County,) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and veterans benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).
If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Call us for a consultation at 610-378-5140. The $300 consultation fee is waived if Attorney Painter is retained to perform services.