A Complete Guide to Estate Planning

If you don’t want your surviving relatives to have to undertake a lengthy and stressful process when you die, then estate planning is crucial.

Although you may not like to think about your own demise, estate planning ensures that your money and any other assets you own are distributed how you want them to be.

If you are unsure where to start when preparing an estate plan, then the guide below is just what you need. 

Read on to discover:

  • What does estate planning involve?
  • What legal documents do I need to prepare an estate plan?
  • What do I need to do to prepare an estate plan?
  • Can I prepare an estate plan on my own? 

What does estate planning involve?

Estate planning is the process of putting your affairs in order so that your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your death. 

While some believe that estate planning is only needed for people with many assets and multiple properties, it is vital for anyone who wants to leave something to their family, friends, or neighbors when they die.

Can I prepare an estate plan on my own? 

While it is perfectly within your rights to prepare your own estate plan, this is quite a complicated and lengthy process. Sadly, even the smallest mistake can mean lengthy delays in the process and, worst case scenario, can result in your loved ones not getting what you attributed to them. 

To make sure that your estate is properly dealt with upon your demise, estate planning consultants are exactly what you need. 

What do I need to do to prepare an estate plan?

When preparing an estate plan, there are several tasks that you need to carry out, including:

  • Go through your home and make a list of all the valuable items you own 
  • Document your non-physical assets such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, and brokerage accounts. 
  • Assemble a list of any debts that you owe, such as mortgages and credit cards. 
  • Make a list of any memberships you hold, such as The American Legion or a professional accreditation association. 
  • Review your retirement accounts and policies. 
  • Update your life insurance to make sure your beneficiaries are listed correctly. 
  • Authorize transfer on death designations. This can vary from state to state. 
  • Choose some to administer your estate. This can be a family member, a friend, or a qualified professional. 
  • Draft your will and give a copy to your estate administrator. 

What legal documents do I need to prepare an estate plan?

As part of your estate plan, a will is a must as this will help to ensure that your assets are given to the right people as quickly as possible. Beyond this legal document, you may also want to consider a trust and a power of attorney

The former is a legal contract that allows you to name an individual to manage and oversee your assets when you die. This is often used when someone has dependent children or elderly family members who are unable to fully manage their own affairs. 

The latter is a legal document granting a trusted person you name to act on your behalf when you become incapacitated.