Have you ever seen the “1001 Must Do” books series? 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, or maybe 1001 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You Die? Let’s face it, 1001 things is a lot of pressure! This is why we like this article in the San Francisco Gate, which lists only 16 estate planning things to do before you die.
Creating your estate plan can seem complicated and scary, but it’s not as daunting as you think—especially if you have the right person helping you. The article mentioned above lists 16 things to do in order to get your affairs in order, but even those 16 things can be pared down to only 5 essential tasks:
1. Make a list of your assets-include your home and other real property, checking and savings accounts, retirement assets, life insurance, investments, as well as high ticket physical items and heirlooms.
2. Make a list of your debts-including credit card debt, remaining mortgage debt, auto loans.
3. Choose your beneficiaries-consider not only children or grandchildren, but also any charities you would like to support. Think about what you want for your legacy beyond the first generation. Also, although it can be difficult, consider what you would want should your children or grandchildren predecease you.
4. Decide who you trust to be your agents/executors to handle your affairs-getting your affairs in order means choosing people to make decisions when you are unable. Agents with power-of-attorney will make financial decisions if you are unable, health care agents work with your doctors to determine your medical care, and trustees will control any assets you place in trust for the benefit of yourself or your beneficiaries.
5. Meet with an estate planning attorney-creating an estate plan is not as simple as checking a few boxes and signing a will. An estate plan requires an evaluation of your assets and goals, careful research into federal and state laws, and a determination of which of the myriad of documents best meets your needs. Have an experienced attorney help make your plan perfect.