10 Steps To Estate Planning

  1. Make a will.  A will is a document whereby you name who is to manage your estate and inherit your property after your death.  If you have minor children, it is important that your will specify how you wish your children are to be provided for, who should manage any money or property your children will inherit, and guardianship of your children.  A will should be updated any time circumstances change, such as a birth or death of a family member.  
  2. Consider a trust.  A trust is an arrangement where you can have property (land, money, etc) held by a trustee, to manage for the benefit of a third party or beneficiary.   
  3. Make a durable power of attorney.  A durable power of attorney is a written authorization you give for someone (an agent) to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated.  A general durable power of attorney allows your agent to act on your behalf in any legal matter that would otherwise have been done by you, such as pertaining to finances, business, or property.
  4. Make a medical power of attorney.  A medical power of attorney allows your agent or proxy to make decisions on your behalf only pertaining to your medical care.  If you should ever become incapacitated and require medical care, your agent will have the ability to follow your wishes to the best of their ability, communicate with your medical providers, and make medical decisions along the way on your behalf.  
  5. Set up health care directives.  Health care directives, or advanced directives, are written instructions that specify what you want done in regards to your medical care should you become incapacitated due to illness or injury. Your medical power of attorney proxy will use this document to aid medical decision making on your behalf. 
  6. File beneficiary forms.  Naming your beneficiaries and filing the appropriate paperwork for bank or retirement accounts will make the transfer of these accounts to your beneficiaries easier in the event of your death. 
  7. Consider life insurance.  You will want to consider the different types of life insurance policies to determine what is right for you and your family.  Having a life insurance policy can give you peace of mind that in the event of your death, your beneficiaries have some financial protection.  
  8. Business arrangements.  If you own a business, you should have a succession plan which names who the business will go.  If you are in business with other partners, having a buyout agreement among all the partners will help you protect your investment in the business.  
  9. Final arrangements.  Consider setting up an account to cover funeral expenses.  You can set up a “payable-on-death” account at your bank.  Also, you should make your wishes known and document them in regards to organ donation, burial or cremation. 
  10. Keep documents.  Keep copies of all your legal documents in a secure location and let your family or executors know where these documents are kept.  

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