Helping You and Your Family Plan for the Future

by Hank

Tips and Options for Estate Planning

It’s the conversation that no one wants to have. The family sits around the dinner table looking nervously at each other, seeing, waiting for the first brave person to begin the conversation. Discussing the ‘what ifs’ in life make everyone uncomfortable and no one wants to think about what could happen. Sometimes, life has other plans for us and takes the worst possible hard left turns. Being prepared for the unpredictable events can help relieve many worries and stresses for your loved ones. There are steps that you and your family can take to ensure that the conversation about end of life care, who has decision making abilities, and what your wishes are. But the question often is for more people, “where do I start?” and “what paperwork needs to be filled out”. We have put together a quick guide to get you and your family started on the path to success.

The following information was found on the Charles Schwab website. They have an easy to follow 4 step guide that walks you through the basics of beginning your estate planning journey. 

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1. Take inventory- no matter how small, it is important to take inventory of all of the tangible itemsthat you own. 

a. Make a list of the things inside your own that would be worth money. How much is your home worth? Do you have any vehicles? What are they worth? Do you have family heirlooms in the home? Artwork? Musical instruments?

b. Collect your financial documents and take inventory of what accounts you have, the type, and the amounts in each account. Familiarize yourself with your financial institutions’ policies regarding beneficiaries, power of attorneys, and personal reps. Do you have any safe deposit boxes? Talk with the institutions and find out what will/can happen when you pass away. 

c. Talk with your insurance company. What kind of policies do you have and what is the cash value of them when you pass? Make a list of mortgages, car payments, credit cards, loans, lines of credit, etc. Keep it with the list of assets so that all of your asset and liability information is together. 

2. Draft an estate plan- This step is easily done without getting too in depth. Simply put, you want to start listing who should inherit and how much those people are getting. 

a. Do you have any minor children? Pick someone who you trust and knows your children to take on their care should the need arise. This can be a hard conversation to parents to have, especially if you have children with special needs. Consult the extended family, if you feel you need to. Often the input from the family can help decide who is best equipped to take on raising your kids. Think and talk about what money would be needed for their future education. Are there any educational accounts set up for your kids? If not, discuss opening some to set aside money.

b. This would also be the time to think about who you want to appoint as your power of attorney. This person would be able to make financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. 

c. Who will be your personal rep of your estate? This person would ultimately be in charge of dividing up your estate after you pass. 

3. Put you estate plan in action- this step is best done with an attorney to help get all of your ducks in a row. Forms for power of attorney as well as some others can be accessed easily online but if you have a large estate, employing an attorney helps you navigate the legal waters. There are financial institutions that have trust departments. These departments vary in what services they provide but they can definitely help you in your estate planning needs. 

a. Do you want to set up a trust? Speak with an attorney or someone at your financial institution about the many pros and cons of having a trust for your family. There are many different ways to set up a trust so make sure that you have all the information before making a decision. 

b. Ensure that you update the beneficiaries on your accounts and notate the procedures that your beneficiaries would need to go through after you pass. The more information that you provide your family with, the easier it will be for them to get your affairs in order.

4. Update your estate regularly- This step is simply for convenience more than anything else. Our lives change so much every day and you want to make sure that your estate has the most current paperwork. If you are working with an attorney, they will often remind you to update things. Also remember that you can always go back and change your paperwork. 

There are some really great information and a guide that answers eight more important questions to ask for the estate planning on the Charles Schwab website.

Simply go to https://www.schwab.com/estate-planning/estate-planning-checklist. Remember to also speak with your financial institution today about your plans and what they can do to help you.