“The only person who doesn’t need an estate plan is the one who lives forever and never gets sick.”
Estate planning is an important financial process to protect you and your family. More than 50% of the adult population has not even thought about having a current or currently reviewed estate plan. That’s half of your friends, family and associates and could be you! A plan is important whether you have 11 million or $10,000. That $10,000 is still very important to you and to your heirs, i.e. children.
So, estate planning should be a very important component of your overall financial planning and indeed your life planning. There is no time like the present to put your estate planning house in order. An up-to-date estate plan lays out your wishes in case you happen to get hurt or sick and cannot manage your financial affairs. Without a plan, it is possible that the courts will have to appoint someone to manage things for you and they may not appoint the person you wanted to handle your affairs.
Here is a simple checklist to help get started:
SIX STEPS TOWARD SUCCESSFUL ESTATE PLANNING
- DEFINE YOUR GOALS: Defining goals means thinking through everything from distributions to who will take care of your kids. Write it down.
2. GATHER & ORGANIZE YOUR DATA: There are some basic tasks to be accomplished:
Make a list of your current financial position, everything you own and everything you owe. Review how you hold title to your assets. Is the owner of each asset consistent with your goals? What about those beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and other assets – when was the last time you checked if they are still the people you want to have that money?
3. ANALYZE YOUR SITUATION BASED ON THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE SO FAR: Try sketching a picture or flow chart of your existing estate plan. Review your decisions for who will handle your affairs and all of the decisions they will have to make.
4. DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGIES: Using your chart and with the assistance of your estate planning advisor(s), check off which legal documents need to be drafted or revised. This is a step to revisit several times, and at regular intervals over the years.
5. IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN: This is where most plans fail – no one makes sure that the things get done. It is your plan, so you either need to man-up and do it or delegate to be sure that it does get done. Changes don’t happen by themselves.
6. TRACK & MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS: Check your estate plan annually or any time there are changes in your family situation or net worth. Use your financial planning calendar to schedule your next review.
This is only the beginning of your planning. You will gain many insights, have meaningful discussions with your spouse or partner while doing the planning and end up with a document that is uniquely yours. For a more complete checklist, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun!