Creating an estate plan can be daunting. There is so much to consider: taking stock of your assets, deciding who inherits what, choosing responsible people to carry out your wishes. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow our 7-step checklist of basic estate planning. It will make things a lot smoother.
The Estate Planning Documents You Need
Before we get to the checklist, these are the basic estate planning documents you should have:
- Will – A Last Will and Testament spells out your last wishes. You can list assets you want to bequeath to beneficiaries of your choice. A Will also allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.
- Revocable Trust – You can place assets in a Trust while you are living that will go directly to named beneficiaries when you pass. This can avoid the probate process.
- Health Care Proxy & Living Will – With a Health Care Proxy – also known as a Power of Attorney for Health Care or a Medical Power of Attorney, you can name someone to make health care decisions if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions, yourself. The supplementary Living Will allows you to express medical and health care choices you would want or not want if you become incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions.
- Power of Attorney – You appoint a person who will manage your legal and financial matters if you are not capable of handling your affairs.
- Pet Power of Attorney – Provides instructions and grants legal authority to a person you appoint to care for your pet if you become disabled, or just go away on vacation.
- Pet Trust – Set aside funds to provide for your pet if they should outlive you. Appoint a permanent Caregiver for your pet, and name a Trustee and Protector to ensure your wishes are followed and your pet receives the best care after you’re gone.
A comprehensive estate plan is more than just having a Will. Each legal document protects you, your assets, your choices, and your family (including your pet family members!). You don’t have to be wealthy to have an estate plan; in fact, everyone needs estate planning documents like a Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney.
Also, as your life changes and certain events take place – such as divorce, having children, buying property, acquiring assets – you need to update your estate plan. Each document should be reviewed periodically.
Estate Planning Checklist for 2021 and Beyond
Here is the 7-step checklist to help with your basic estate planning.
Create Your Estate Plan Now
Using the checklist will help you craft your documents. Don’t put off creating your estate plan. You never know when life will throw a curveball. Estate planning is all about being prepared for the expected and the unexpected.