More than 120 million Americans do not have updated estate plans, according to the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. Here are four tips for putting an estate plan in place.
- Plan ahead. “Before serious illness or disability strikes, 1) appoint a health care proxy to make your medical decisions, 2) prepare a living will to set forth your preferences in regards to end-of-life options and 3) execute a financial power of attorney to ensure that your finances will be used to take care of you and your dependents during any period of incapacity,” says Lori Douglass, Partner at Moses & Singer, LLP.
- Draft a will. Don’t leave things up to chance. Make sure to have a will in place so that your assets will go to the people that you want to take over your belongings. “Having a last will and testament is critical. A will, including trusts for those with assets requiring a more complex estate plan, ensures that your estate is administered by representatives of your choice in accordance with your wishes. If you do not have a will, state laws rule,” says Douglass. If you don’t have a will, the government will ultimately decide who inherits your property. The last thing you want is your loved ones fighting over who gets what.
- Update your beneficiary designations. Take care to review your beneficiaries and update them as needed. Getting married, divorced, or experiencing some other major life event would be the ideal times to review your designations.
- Don’t forget your digital estate. Many don’t think about the digital assets they have accumulated over the years. Start by planning ahead and taking an inventory. Make sure that your family (or close friends) know about your accounts and their passwords. Also make sure to leave instructions for how you want your social media accounts handled.