When you’re planning your estate, you begin with your own goals, then seek the help of others to help you in meeting those goals.
1. Talk to family and friends
Talk to family members and friends now. Decide how to handle your financial and medical affairs if you become incapable of making your own decisions.
2. What’s important to you?
Take time to consider what’s important to you. What values do you want to pass on to your family and to your community? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
3. Find professional advice
Start working with professional advisors—especially an attorney—now. Collect and organize the documents you’ll need so that your property can be distributed as you wish. Make a list of the property and debts you currently have. Make sure you have available the many documents describing insurance, mortgages, deeds, and other things you own, including your qualified retirement plan. With each asset, note how each is owned or titled; the kind of ownership can be critical in tax and estate planning.
4. Make decisions now
Make the important decisions now. Don’t burden your loved ones with financial matters during what is certain to be a difficult time. Answer the question: Who is the beneficiary of these assets? Determine who will receive your property and make sure the legal designations are accurate and in place. Set goals. Once you have an initial plan in place, what goals are important to accomplish in the future about these plans?
Implement your goals. This may require making changes in documents, financial matters, or other arrangements.
Keep your plans up to date. Review your plans and goals periodically to make sure they still match your goals.