Even if you have never considered creating an estate plan before and have not yet begun, you still have made the responsible decision to start. To help you along, we will provide some insight about what you can do before you ever meet with an estate planning attorney.
Most of the tips will work in conjunction with the things you will do with a lawyer. The odds are that they will ask you to do some of these steps. By taking some of the following items into consideration, you will be getting a jump on the process, protecting yourself, and perhaps shortening the amount of time (and money) you will spend with a lawyer.
You May Have Have Already Begun
Even those who have never spent any amount of time developing an estate plan may have pieces of it in place. Do you have a retirement plan, 401(k), or pension plan? Though these will separate from your actual estate plan, they are worth revisiting.
The reason is that you have to choose a beneficiary (or multiple beneficiaries). Who is set to receive these funds if you pass away? An important thing to remember is that many people list their spouses. However, if you have recently divorced or remarried, you should change the beneficiary designation.
Take A Look At Your Assets
Many people say they don’t have enough assets to warrant an estate plan. If that is you, take this step as a challenge: build a list of what you own. This can include your house, bank accounts, and even the computer on which you are writing the list.
You possess more than you think. Even if you don’t know who you would pass your belongings to, still include the asset on your list. And if you do have an idea, put a name down next to it.
What Do You Owe?
In addition to what you own, you need to know what you owe. Our debt is not wiped out upon our deaths. One of the many reasons estate planning is both responsible and selfless is that people will have to pay or inherit our debts.
Not only do you have the ability to list out each loan and credit card (even the ones with a zero balance), you can provide ways in which your loved ones can access them. Getting into someone’s account to pay debts when they have not been previously granted access can be a challenge and burden.
Keep a list of the debt you have taken on (which is fine), but help your loved ones by providing the documentation for each loan or credit card.
Attorney J. Kevin Tharpe has practiced estate planning law for more than three decades. During that time, he has discovered how critical estate planning is in our lives. If you have any amount of assets—regardless of age—or are about to retire and need an estate plan, contact J. Kevin Tharpe P.C. to schedule your consultation.