Estate planning checklist: Your 12-step guide

Estate planning checklist: Your 12-step guide

Are the details of your estate plan taken care of? If it has been a while since you last updated your estate plan, now is the time to revisit it and make sure everything is in order this year and beyond.

Having an effective estate plan isn’t just smart financial management; it also helps provide peace of mind knowing that if something happens to you or a loved one, their wishes will be followed accordingly.

To help get you started on this important task, we’ve created a comprehensive 12-step checklist with everything you need to know when creating or updating your estate plan. So read on! 

Create a will and power of attorney for health care and property

Do you have a will, durable power of attorney (POA), and financial power of attorney? These important legal documents are an important part of every complete estate plan.

These documents help provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones and give you the power to choose who will make important decisions on your behalf if you ever become unable to do so.

With a healthcare power of attorney, you can select a trusted person to act as your agent and make healthcare decisions for you if necessary. And with a durable power of attorney for property, you can rest assured that a designated agent will help handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.

Make sure beneficiaries, executors, trustees and guardians are up to date

Life changes, and so do relationships. For example, maybe you’ve had a falling out with a family member previously named as a beneficiary, or you’ve welcomed a new member to the family.

Don’t forget to check on any beneficiaries, executors, trustees, guardians, or other individuals named in your documents to make sure they are still living and able to fulfill their duties, and you still want them involved with your estate.

Regardless, making sure your beneficiaries, executors, trustees, guardians, or other individuals named in your documents are up to date is important so your assets go where you want them to.

Taking the time to make these updates now can help save your loved ones from confusion and conflict down the line.

make sure your addendums are up to date as part of your estate planning

Make sure the addendums to your will are up to date

When planning for the future, updating your will is an important step. But it’s more than just the main document that needs attention.

Remember the addendums that specify who gets what of your personal property. It’s important that these addendums are current, as they can often get overlooked or forgotten.

After all, you wouldn’t want to leave your cherished possessions in the hands of someone who no longer wants or needs them. And who wants the headache of a legal battle over a misunderstanding or outdated document? No thanks!

Take the time now to review and update those addendums and have more peace of mind knowing your wishes are precise and current.

If you move to a new state, make sure everything is compliant

Moving to a new state can be exciting, but it’s important your estate plan complies with all the legal requirements in your new home.

Suppose you haven’t reviewed your estate documents since your move. In that case, it’s a good idea to seek a local estate planning attorney to help ensure everything is in order.

You want to make sure that your estate is planned for and protected properly under your new state’s laws. Each state has different laws and requirements, so it’s important to have the knowledge of a local attorney to help guide you through any potential differences.

Don’t leave your estate planning to chance. Instead, be proactive and contact a professional to help make sure everything is compliant.

Make sure your living trust is up to date

When it comes to estate planning, it’s important to make sure your living trust is current.

But what if you’re unhappy with some of the provisions in your irrevocable trust? Don’t fret – you may be able to decant. This technique involves moving the contents of your irrevocable trust into another newly created trust.

However, it’s important to note that not all states allow decanting. Alternatively, you could discuss moving certain assets out of a living trust – where a trustee holds them – and instead keep them in your own name.

This conversation can weigh the potential income tax benefits of a step-up in cost basis against other reasons for keeping your trust intact. (“Step up” means that the cost basis of an asset resets to the security’s fair market value as the date of the holder’s death – potentially a much higher value than when they bought the security.) The higher the cost basis for your assets, the fewer capital gains tax your heirs will pay when those assets are sold.

So, take a moment to review your trust documents and consider your options to help ensure your estate plan reflects your wishes.

make sure your children's trust is up to date when estate planning

Make sure your children’s trust is up to date

As a parent, you want to help ensure your children are taken care of, especially regarding their financial future.

One way to do this is by setting up a children’s trust, where you can designate specific amounts of money for specific purposes, such as education, home down payments, or weddings, once they reach certain ages specified by you. 

However, making sure that the ages specified in the trust still apply to your children is important. You can delete that language from your estate documents if they have already surpassed the specified ages.

Keeping your children’s trust up to date can help ensure that they receive the financial support they need when they need it the most.

Protect the assets of your grandchildren

As a grandparent, you not only want to spoil your grandchildren with love and affection, but you may also want to leave behind a legacy that will support them long after you’re gone.

However, life can be unpredictable, and you never know what the future holds for your children or grandchildren.

What happens if one of your kids goes through a divorce, and suddenly your hard-earned assets end up in the hands of your former son-in-law or daughter-in-law?

This is where a trust can come in handy. With a trust, you can help protect your assets and make sure they go to your child or grandchild, even if their marriage doesn’t work out.

This way, you can rest easy knowing that your loved ones are taken care of no matter what happens in life with proper estate planning.

Properly provide for heirs with special needs

Estate planning can get tricky when you have loved ones with special needs.

There may need to be more than estate documents that work for typical heirs to help ensure that your special needs heir will be adequately provided for. That’s why it’s important to seek out the help of experienced professionals.

A financial advisor and an attorney specializing in this planning area can be invaluable assets. They can help you navigate the ins and outs of establishing trusts, choosing guardians, and ensuring your loved one’s needs are met now and in the future.

So if you’re worried about how to provide for your special needs heirs properly, remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. The right team of experts can help you create a comprehensive financial plan that works for your entire family.

make sure your beneficiaries are protected when estate planning

Check beneficiary designations on policies and other accounts

It’s always a good idea to stay on top of your finances so everything is in order when doing your estate planning.

One important aspect to remember is your beneficiary designations on various policies and accounts. It may seem like a small detail, but it can significantly impact the future.

Check your beneficiary designations on brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts. Take a good look and ask yourself, is anybody listed that you don’t want there?

If so, making changes as soon as possible is important to help ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Stay proactive and stay in control of your financial future.

Make sure assets are properly documented to pass by bloodline

It’s important that your assets are correctly documented if you want them to pass down to your family by bloodline.

Suppose you have specific beneficiaries in mind, like your children, for example. In that case, you may need to include legal language in your documents to guarantee that your assets are distributed as you intend.

This is where per stirpes comes in, allowing for distribution of property even if a beneficiary with children passes away before the will is executed. Without this language, your listed beneficiaries may divide your assets in a way you didn’t intend.

So, make sure you take the time to document your wishes to help avoid any confusion or disputes over your assets down the line.

Check names on bank accounts

So, you’ve decided to name your child on a bank account. It seems like a smart move. After all, you want your child to access the money if something happens to you.

But here’s the thing: if you do this, the money will go straight to your child no matter what your will says. And if your child decides to split the money with someone else, it’s technically considered a gift. You won’t have to worry about a gift tax if it’s less than $5.34 million, but it’s still something to consider.

Make sure you think it over carefully before making any decisions. You don’t want to cause any unnecessary family drama.

Keep your documents organized

Keeping your important documents organized is important to estate planning so that your loved ones are taken care of, even after you’re gone.

It’s important to organize your personal information and communicate that information to your heirs so that they know how to access it when the time comes.

That’s where the Intelliplan Financial Legacy Builder comes in. This estate planner and organizer helps you document and organize your information to make your important documents easily accessible to your loved ones when the time comes to settle your estate.

While the Legacy Builder is not intended to replace your will or other estate planning documents, it is an excellent resource to help you maintain control of your wealth and plan for its ultimate disposition.

Don’t leave your financial legacy to chance. Instead, get organized with the Legacy Builder today! To learn more about The Legacy Builder, give our office a call at (614) 255-7547. 

In conclusion

In summary, now is the time to look at your estate planning checklist and make sure everything is up to date. This involves:

  • creating a will and power of attorney for health care and property
  • making sure beneficiaries are current
  • adding addendums if needed
  • protecting the assets of grandchildren in appropriate trusts
  • properly providing for heirs with special needs
  • checking beneficiary designations on policies and bank accounts
  • as well as keeping your documents organized, and more.

Estate Planning doesn’t have to be complicated, so feel free to seek professional advice from Intelliplan Financial. Investing in estate planning now can help save you and your loved ones from unnecessary hardship in the future.

Contact Intelliplan Financial today to get started so you can begin finding comfort in knowing everyone will be taken care of after you.

Disclosure: Financial Planning and Advisory Services are offered through Prosperity Capital Advisors (“PCA”), an SEC-registered investment adviser.  Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Intelliplan Financial and PCA are separate, non-affiliated entities. PCA does not provide tax or legal advice. Insurance services offered through Intelliplan Financial are not affiliated with PCA.

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Financial Planning and Advisory Services are offered through Prosperity Capital Advisors (“PCA”), an SEC registered investment adviser.  Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Intelliplan Financial and PCA are separate, non-affiliated entities. PCA does not provide tax or legal advice.

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