Estate planning can be an overwhelming process. There are so many documents, accounts, and issues that must be made and reviewed along the way. While this can often be stressful, it is worth it. Leaving your family members and heirs to go through your belongings searching for a will, a birth certificate, mortgage accounts, tax return information, and contact lists when you are incapacitated or no longer living should not be an option. This will cause a whole slew of issues for your family. It is important to start planning now by gathering important documents that will be vital when you become disabled or die.
Lists are helpful in many situations, including estate planning. The following is a list of important documents and legal paperwork that needs to be completed as a part of your estate planning:
- Will: An up-to-date will is a must when it comes to estate planning. In a will, you will decide to whom you will distribute which of your assets. You will also name an executor who will oversee the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children, you must name a guardian for them in case something should happen to you and the other parent.
- Trust (optional): In some cases, you should consider creating a trust. A trust is a way for you eliminate the time-consuming and expensive process of probate. Instead of your assets having to be distributed after probate, they will be automatically distributed by a trustee. While this might sound very appealing at first, it is very expensive to set up. In some situations though, it is extremely beneficial to create a trust. Consider doing this if you are a parent of a blended family, you want someone other than your heirs to manage your money, you have a disabled relative, you want to avoid probate, or you know that you will have to pay federal estate taxes.
- Health Care Directive: A health care directive includes a “living will” and a power of attorney for health care. Your living will consists of a health care declaration in which you will write out your wishes for your health care in the case that you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. When you declare a power of attorney for health care, you are naming the person that you wish to make decisions regarding your health if you cannot. These combine to make a health care directive which will protect you if you ever become incapacitated.
- Financial Power of Attorney: A financial power of attorney is the person who will manage your finances and property if you become unable to handle your own affairs. By declaring a power of attorney, you are giving yourself more power over what will be done with finances when you are unable to handle them yourself. If you do not name a power of attorney, then the court may be required to appoint a guardian to take care of your financial matters.
Aside from the documents listed above, there are certain accounts that you must check over as a part of the estate planning process. Make a list of the accounts that are applicable to you and share it with your heirs. If there is any paperwork that is relevant to the accounts, gather it together.
- 401(K) accounts
- life insurance policies
- long-term care insurance policies
- bank and brokerage accounts
- all auto-pay accounts
- stocks, bonds or money in mutual funds
- safe-deposit boxes
- pension documents
- annuity contracts
Also make sure to look over your retirement accounts and insurance policies to see who your beneficiaries are. In some cases, your beneficiary might be an ex-spouse or a deceased relative. To avoid conflict in the future, update your beneficiary forms as needed.
Gather Your Documents and Paperwork
Once you have complete the necessary documents, made a list of all your accounts, and gathered any relevant paperwork, consider putting all these forms in a metal fire-proof box. Share the location and contents of this box with family. This will make it easier for your heirs to know what to do upon occasion of your death or incapacitation.
Call our Arizona Estate Planning team at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.