We all know the day is coming when our time will be up and we will leave our loved ones behind. It’s a harsh reality that no one wants to accept, and no one thinks they need to worry about until later on in their life. However, the time is now, not later, to get your affairs in order.
This might seem overwhelming at first, however, your loved ones will thank you if you prepare your estate now, thus allowing a smoother transition for them (with all things considered) upon your death.
To get you started on the right track, here are my top ten tips on how you can successfully prepare your estate for your loved ones when your last day on earth arrives.
1. Make/Update Your Will
Do you have a Will at all? This is step one. If you don’t have a Will, now is the time to make one, especially if you have loved ones you would like to leave money or property to, or if you have children. Making a Will can ensure everything is how you want it to be after you are no longer here. Not having a Will can put your family through more stress and heartache should you fail to do so, as there are a lot more hoops they will have to jump through, on top of the emotional turmoil they will already be dealing with regarding your departure.
If you already have a Will, then that’s great! However, when was the last time you updated it? Making sure your Will is updated can keep you on the right track to successfully preparing your estate.
2. Create Durable General Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated or incompetent, you will not be able to handle your own financial transactions and affairs. Therefore, designating a durable power of attorney, someone who handles your financial world on your behalf, can be highly beneficial for you to do. Otherwise, your family or loved ones will end up in court for a guardianship proceeding. This can be a very long, difficult process.
3. Review Your IRA/ 401K/Other Retirement Plans
You worked hard to save for your retirement all of those years–so hard, that you will still have plenty of funds left that will probably exceed your lifespan. Bravo! Not a lot of people can achieve that. Make sure every penny that you saved and earned goes to the people you want to benefit from your leftover hard work–whether it’s your family members, a charity, or whomever, review your retirement and investment plans to double check who your beneficiary is.
4. Create A List of Financial Accounts
This is great especially if you have many financial accounts. If something happens to you, does your spouse know about all of the financial accounts you both shared together over the years if you were the one who paid the bills? Would he/she know all of the passwords to be able to gain access to your financial assets together should something happen to you? Don’t leave your family in the dark trying to piece things together with the limited information they may be able to find.
5. Make Arrangements for Access to Your Safety Deposit Box
This is one that a lot of people accidentally forget. You have collected valuable items over the years and have kept them safe in your bank’s safety deposit box; however, if you don’t tell anyone valuable items are in there, give someone access or knowledge of where the key is, or forget to add someone as being allowed to access your box, then once something happens to you, your valuable items will not get left behind to those you love most.
6. Verify Account Ownership and Beneficiary Designations for All Accounts
Making sure you have added the correct and current information for your beneficiaries and have allocated the percentage you wish to leave behind for them is also imperative to ensure your monies are going where you want them to go after you are gone. This is important for any monetary asset, like bank accounts, and life insurance policies, not just those retirement accounts! Comb through all of your accounts to make sure the beneficiary designations are up to date and how you want them set up. Beneficiary designations trump whatever is stated in your Will or Trust.
7. Provide A Trusted Family Member or Friend with the Location of Confidential or Valuable Items, Spare Keys and Security Codes
In life, we all try to be careful with whom we trust sensitive information to, such as what our passwords are, where our spare keys are located, and more; however, when successfully setting up your estate, it is vital to pick at least one person you entrust this information to so at least one person has access to your assets and valuable items once you are gone.
By following these seven tips, you will be better prepared to hand off your estate and assets to the loved ones and charities of your choice to ensure your legacy gets left behind in the way you want it to.
About the Author, Nicole Pavlik: Estate Planning, Business Planning, and Probate Attorney
Nicole Pavlik Law Firms helps residents of Phoenix, Arizona with their estate planning, business planning, and probate needs. To see what Nicole Pavlik can do for your estate or business, give her office a call at (602) 635-6176.