There's no getting around it; everyone dies. However, estate planning doesn't have to be a morbid topic! Estate planning is simply the process of organizing your affairs in advance to make things easier for your loved ones when you're gone. Our Dallas-Fort Worth estate planning team provides you with a step-by-step guide on what you need to do to get your affairs in order.
The first step in estate planning is to take inventory of your assets. This includes everything such as:
- bank accounts
- investment accounts
- property (like your home, land, or rental property)
- valuables (like jewelry, art, cars, or collectibles)
Do not forget to review your retirement account balances and life insurance policy information. Once you have a good idea of your assets, it's time to start thinking about how you want them distributed after your death.
You'll also want to make a list of any debts you owe, like:
- credit card balances,
- student loans, or
- medical bills.
Once you have a complete list of your assets and debts, you can start thinking about what you want to do with them.
2. Gather Important Documents
Here are four documents you should familiarize yourself with to get you started thinking about what you might need to include in your estate plan.
Last Will & Testament
This is the most traditional type of planning. However, there is much misunderstanding surrounding wills. The most wide spready misunderstanding is that you have a will to AVOID probate. The exact opposite is actually true. A will MUST go through probate before beneficiaries (including spouses) received an inheritance.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney appoints someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney appoints a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so.
A living trust is a legal document that can hold title to your assets and AVOIDS probate. A living trust is a newer legal tool that many normal people are using as successor trustees have immediate access to all assets without the need for any court oversight - like a will.
3. Organizing Your Estate Planning Documents
Now that you know which documents you need, it's time to organize them! Keep all of your original estate planning documents in a safe place, like a fire-proof home safe. You should also give copies of your estate planning documents to the people you have appointed as your durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and executor/successor trustee. However, it is VERY important that originals are kept safe and all interested parties now how to access your original documents when the time comes.
4. Regularly Review Your Documents
It is recommended to review your important documents once every five years. This will ensure that it accurately reflects your current wishes.
Estate planning is a necessary process that everyone should go through. By taking the time to plan now, you can save your loved ones a lot of time, stress, and money later on.
5. Seek Professional Help When Needed
While no one likes to think about their mortality, estate planning is an integral part of responsible adulthood. By taking the time to plan now, you can save your loved ones a lot of heartache and headache later on. Crain & Wooley is here to help. We'll work with you to create a comprehensive estate plan that meets your unique needs.
Get in touch with our team today at (972) 560-6288 to schedule a consultation!