The 7 Questions you should consider to avoid confusion or conflict after your death. If you have ever considered how you want your estate to be distributed after you die. Hopefully, you’ve written a will to make sure your wishes will be followed. If not, let’s talk!
Assuming you do have a Will, your estate is planned…right?
While most of us would like to think that estate planning is that simple, there are other things to consider as part of the process, and topics that need to be revisited over time. Sometimes, your life changes. Sometimes, the law changes.
When you die, your executor will typically have more than 100 tasks to handle to settle your estate. Which means anything you can do in advance to add clarity and lessen the burden of that person’s work is always a good idea.
Here is a list of seven things to consider, when making sure your estate has a plan in place:
Bob Michaels is extremely passionate about providing the best possible legal experience for his clients, and focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, business, and real estate matters. Bob has been able to provide piece of mind and a solid foundation to many folks in the Puget Sound area over the years and wants to provide resources and relevant information whenever he can. For more information on how Bob can help your loved ones through these troubling times, contact Bob to schedule a FREE consultation.
1. Is your Will current?
Assuming you’ve written your Will (and if you haven’t, be sure to do so soon), how long has it been since you drafted it? Have any major changes in your life taken place since? Be sure to review your Will once a year to ensure it’s an accurate representation of your current assets and your wishes.
2. Is your Will detailed enough?
When most people think of their estate, they think of the big things — the house, the car, the diamond bracelet. But what about smaller items with great sentimental value, such as the Scrabble board three generations of family members gathered around during the holidays? Or the book of bedtime stories your parents read to you each night?
Unfortunately, family disharmony and disputes can occur over simple these items, even more than those with great monetary value. If you know of possessions that could become the subject of argument, spell out who you want to have them after you’re gone, even if the mementos and paraphernalia don’t have a high dollar value.
Learn why a Will is Essential HERE.
3. Have you spelled out your wishes in a way that is legally binding?
Each state has different rules regarding what makes a valid Will. Some may allow handwritten Wills; others may require a certain number of witness signatures to distribute real estate.
With all these differences, it’s always a good idea to check with a local attorney to see if your Will is valid. You don’t want to make a mistake that could lead to problems for your executor down the road.
Also, the SECURE Act offers an important reason to review your beneficiary designations and any trusts. The law removed so-called “stretch” provisions for beneficiaries of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution plans, like 401(k)s. So, it’s vital to review the beneficiary designations of your retirement accounts to be sure they meet the new rules. The SECURE Act also altered the rules for IRA distributions when trusts are beneficiaries of IRAs and 401(k)s, so you might need to deal with that, too.
4. Have you planned your funeral in full detail?
When you die, your loved ones will likely be reeling, particularly if your death is unexpected. So why make them plan out your funeral and try to guess your wishes? You can help them immensely by pre-planning your funeral.
Most funeral directors will gladly meet with you to pre-plan, even if you can’t pre-pay for the service. It is perfectly appropriate for you to leave instructions regarding your wishes, including whether you prefer to be cremated versus buried in a casket, what you’d like services to include, and whether you’d like charitable donations to be made in lieu of people sending flowers.
5. Are your financial affairs organized?
Your executor will need to know about recurring payments, bills, account numbers, online passwords and much more. Making a list of typical monthly bills and documenting your account numbers and access codes will greatly simplify your executor’s job.
Don’t forget the automatic deductions or charges on your credit card. Things like internet-based subscriptions, club memberships, recurring charitable donations and even automatic utility payments can sneak up on an executor if there isn’t a monthly paper bill.
Learn more about who will pay your debt when you die HERE.
6. Have you planned for the care of those who survive you?
If you are a caregiver to a parent, spouse, child, etc., it’s wise to have a detailed plan in place about who will care for them if they outlive you.
And don’t forget your pets. The laws regarding care for animals is spelled out differently in each state, your loved ones will be grateful if you detail out all your intentions.
7. Do you have a method in place to distribute your personal property?
It’s important to figure out how your heirs will divide up the possessions not explicitly listed in your Will. Ultimately, everything from dishes to lawn care equipment will need to be either distributed to one of your beneficiaries, donated or sold.
While your beneficiaries might, for the most part, agree about who should get what, disputes can quickly arise regarding valuable or sentimental items and the fairness of the process. For example, is it fair if one child gets all the items of financial value and the other gets the items of sentimental value?
Think about how you would like your beneficiaries to proceed and let them know.
Learn more about how to make a Checklist for your Family HERE
Most of us hope our families will remain strong after we are gone. Doing a comprehensive job in planning our estate can help ensure that this wish becomes reality. Anything you can do to help your loved ones through that difficult time by managing your affairs today is a wise move that will greatly appreciate.
Learn More about Why a Will is Essential HERE.
Learn more about Why to Avoid Online Wills HERE.
Learn more about Ethical Estate Planning HERE.
Learn more about Estate Planning during the Coronavirus Crisis HERE.
Learn the Top 10 Reasons why you should Consider a Trust HERE.
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