Estate planning is a crucial part of ensuring your affairs are organized and in order. As you plan for the future, implementing a strong estate planning strategy is imperative for ensuring your wishes are properly carried out upon your passing.
Not quite sure what exactly estate planning is? Here’s a quick recap: estate planning is the process of electing who will act as your beneficiary, handle your affairs and ensure your assets are allocated to the correct individual(s) when you pass away. This also includes handling your responsibilities in the event you’ve become incapacitated. One goal of estate planning is to ensure that any beneficiary receives said assets in a way that minimizes gift tax, estate tax, and more.
Estate planning may seem complex, but that’s why there are dedicated professionals in the field to help guide you through the process. To help address your estate planning needs, here’s a seven-step checklist to ensure you have everything in order.
1. Take Inventory of Your Assets
You’d be surprised how much one person can accumulate in assets over the years. Taking an inventory of all the physical assets you own is an effective way of staying organized and ensuring everything you deem valuable is accounted for.
Assets that may be included in an estate are:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Real estate
- Cars, motorcycles, or boats
- Stocks and bonds
- Workplace 401(k) plans or individual retirement accounts
- Collectables: works of art, antiques, trading cards, and coins
2. Establish Your Directives
When navigating the realm of estate planning, it’s important to include healthcare directives.
An advance directive or living will serves as a way to specify how you’d like your affairs handled should you become medically incapacitated – like what type of treatment or care you wish to receive. Be careful who you give this responsibility to – this is someone who is literally in charge of your medical care if you can’t communicate.
3. Take Your Family Into Consideration
What are your family’s needs? If you have children, you’ll want to select a guardian who is fiscally responsible and able to properly care for your loved one(s). It’s essential to include detailed instructions covering how you’d like your children to be cared for. Never assume a family member will step willingly into the role or that a judge will abide by your wishes.
4. Review Your Beneficiaries
Set aside time to review who you’ve designated as your beneficiaries. This includes reviewing any retirement or insurance plans in your possession. The goal is to ensure your wishes are being carried out exactly as you specify. For instance, if you’re divorced and your life insurance policy still has your ex listed as your beneficiary, your current spouse will not receive the assets you intended for them.
5. Research Your State’s Estate Tax Laws
It’s important to gain a thorough understanding of the estate tax laws in the state you reside in. Some states have estate taxes, though it’s only very large estates that are subject to estate taxes on a federal level. Georgia has no state inheritance tax, but many other states do.
6. Keep it Updated
Depending on when you formulate your estate plan, you may need to make some tweaks to it over time. People get divorced, children are born, a loved one may pass away and other factors arise that could potentially warrant changes to your estate planning strategy. Just know that life changes and it’s good to revisit your estate planning – even if life hasn’t changed that much. Check on it every once in a while to ensure everything is up to date.
7. Seek Professional Help
The Smith Barid team specializes in helping people just like you devise an intelligent and strategic estate plan. Whether you have a small or large and complex estate, it’s important to partner with an expert who will walk you through every step of the process and ensure you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed all your T’s.
Contact us today to see how we can help you with your estate plan.