Nearly everyone has an estate. Chances are, you do as well. Your estate includes nearly everything you own, including your assets, property, financial accounts, vehicles, or life insurance policy. These are items that you will leave behind when you pass on. The question is, what will you leave behind and who are your designated beneficiaries?
Estate planning is important because it identifies and protects your beneficiaries. A will can help do the following:
- Care for your children
- Secure your spouse’s retirement
- Shelter your heirs from taxes
- Eliminate legal chaos
- Help you designate money to charities
- Help you take care of your own needs
Below is a brief will and estate planning checklist to help you begin the process and start you thinking about key decisions.
1. Assess Your Goals
The first step in estate planning is to establish clear goals and guidelines for all relevant parties. What assets are you distributing? Who are the beneficiaries? What are the conditions? If you and everyone else knows exactly where the estate is going, then there will be no confusion when it is time to execute the will.
2. Evaluate Your Debt
You may leave behind some debt that needs to be paid off so that it does not burden your spouse or children. Therefore, you need to have a game plan. You may want to consult your financial planner to determine how much debt you can liquidate as soon as possible and how much you project you’ll have over the next few years. You can adjust your will as you reduce the debt.
3. Determine the Guardianship of Your Children
When it comes to caring for your children, there should be no guesswork involved if you pass due to a sudden accident or illness. Make sure you have your children’s best interest in mind and place their care in the hands of someone you trust. Speak with the guardians at length before you add their names to the will.
4. Establish Healthcare Directives
Advanced directives for medical decisions can be outlined for you or a loved one who may need short or long-term care. By planning ahead, you can get the healthcare you want and avoid any unnecessary suffering. Address issues such as comas and life support. This will relieve caregivers of burdensome decisions in moments of grief or crisis.
5. Determine a Beneficiary
Your assets will go to the person you named in the beneficiary designation. This is a legally binding document. Regardless of the current status of your relationship with the named beneficiary, if they are a designee, then they will receive your assets. So, it is important to review and update your beneficiaries regularly.
6. Choose Power of Attorney
Your power of attorney will be managing your financial and legal affairs. Therefore, you will want to designate someone who is experienced in these areas or is assertive and knowledgeable enough to handle the decision-making when the time comes. Choose someone who is trustworthy, fair, loyal, and understands your wishes.
7. Determine Who Will Make Medical Decisions
Sometimes situations may arise that fall outside of the scope of your will. When this happens, someone needs to be in charge and have the final say on critical decisions. Appointing someone to make medical decisions can ensure your wishes are followed if you become incapacitated.
8. Consider Special Requests
Whether it’s life or death circumstances, you may have some special requests that you want to be carried out. This can include special asset designations, funeral requests, organ donation requests, or just about any other requests you have. Keep in mind that the more personal these requests are to you, the more detailed the information needs to be.
9. Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
An estate planning attorney in Littleton, Colorado, can provide the legal guidance you need to avoid common mistakes while getting the most out of your will. They can create the will, designate your beneficiaries, establish a power of attorney, find ways to reduce taxes, help you avoid probate, and set up any trusts to protect your assets.
Allow Me to be Your Estate Planning Guide
Duncan Legal PC provides legal services for individuals and families who need to set up a trust, will, or any other type of estate planning service. My law firm has the resources, staff, and knowledge necessary to help you with your case. Call today to get a free case assessment from an estate planning attorney in Centennial, Colorado.
We also serve Littleton, Greenwood Village, Parker, Arapahoe County, and Douglas County, Colorado.