February is known as the month of love. The obvious way to celebrate is on Valentine’s Day, when we shower loved ones with gifts and sentimental notes. While this one day is a beautiful way to show affection, this day is a reminder to think long-term about your loved ones and plan for the future – what happens if a loved one becomes incapacitated or passes away?
This isn’t an uplifting topic to think about, but it is something we all need to think through if the worst-case scenario does happen. After all, these are our loved ones and it’s important their wishes are on paper. If you haven’t already done an estate plan, there is no time like the beginning of a new year to think about getting your affairs in order.
Here are three estate-planning tips to do now to jumpstart the estate planning process:
- Create a list of what should be on the list. Think through the intangible and the tangible assets. The list should include your investment accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, real estate, business interests and assets. You should also include financial assets such as cars, jewelry, coin and also any heirloom items that you want to go to a specific person or organization.
- Think about who should inherit each of your assets. This is always one of the more challenging topics, but trust me, it’s better for you to dictate who gets what, then having the family decide during the aftermath. Sometimes your assets will be equally divided between your family members or perhaps you want to individually assign each asset to a particular individual or organization. The other big action to check off your estate planning to-do list is to decide who will be your executor, health proxy and power of attorney if you become incapacitated.
- Decide where you should store these documents. After you have your will and estate plan completed, pick a secure and safe location to store these documents. This can be a safe deposit box at your bank or a fireproof and secure safe at your home. One thing to note, if you opt for a safe deposit box, is to be sure you grant your designated power of attorney access so it’s easy to obtain the documents. You should also leave a copy with your estate-planning attorney so there is a backup in case your documents are misplaced. Also be sure to let those that need to know where to find the documents and your final wishes.