Even if you currently have a will or trust, it may be outdated, incomplete or you have had changes in your life and your will needs updating. Turner Law Firm, PLLC has compiled a 14-Point Checklist to help create a sound estate plan. Many Americans have estate plans in place — but unfortunately, many are incomplete and the most important subjects aren’t even addressed.
Turner Law Firm, PLLC will evaluate your total estate plan and it should include:
A will provides instructions for distributing assets to your family and other beneficiaries. You will also appoint someone to be an executor to pay final expenses, taxes, etc. and then distribute the remaining assets. If you have minor children, a will is also a way to designate a guardian for them. A will doesn’t take effect until you die and it cannot provide for management of your assets if you become incapacitated. That’s why it is necessary to have other estate planning documents in place which become effective if you should be unable to act. Therefore you will need:
2. Durable Power Of Attorney
Durable Power Of Attorney which designates who will handle your business affairs and health-care decisions if you are disabled or unable to act, needs to be put in place.
3. Power Of Attorney
Power Of Attorney is a legal document in which you name another person to act on your behalf. You can give this person/agent broad or limited powers. You should choose this person carefully because he or she will be able to sell, invest and spend or distribute your assets.
A traditional power of attorney terminates upon your disability or death.
A durable power of attorney continues during incapacity and terminates upon your death.
4. Power Of Attorney for Health-Care (Living Will)
Power Of Attorney for Health-Care (Living Will) designating who will handle your business affairs and health-care decisions if you are disabled or unable to act needs to be implemented. A living will provides your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining measures in the event of a terminal illness. It says what you want to be done and what you don’t want to be done but doesn’t give any individual the legal authority to speak for you. That is why it is usually coupled with a health-care power of attorney and will include whom you want making medical decisions if you are unable to act yourself.
5. Health-Care Power Of Attorney
A Health-Care Power Of Attorney authorizes the person you designate to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself. This document, coupled with a Living Will is necessary to avoid family conflicts and even court intervention should you become unable to make your own health-care decisions.
6. Revocable Living Trust
Revocable Living Trust to transfer, manage and distribute assets while you are alive and that will avoid probate after your death. A revocable living trust is a trust often used in estate plans. By transferring assets into a revocable living trust, you can manage your financial affairs during your lifetime and provide management if you become incapacitated. A revocable living trust lets trust assets avoid probate, keeps personal information private, and can designate the disposition of trust assets to future generations.
7. Create a List of Asset Locations
Create a list that can be easily located where you can list all your assets and where they are located. Sometimes people forget to mention a storage unit, safety deposit box or a secret location of hidden items on the property or elsewhere that contain valuable assets or information. If you do not want this information to be “taken to the grave,” it is best to document the information and only disclosed after the time of your passing. A discussion with Turner Law Firm, PLLC involving whom you want to inherit various assets and the location of the items will need to be thorough.
8. Do Not Resuscitate
Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR, medical order written by a doctor. It instructs health-care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient’s breathing stops or if the patient’s heart stops beating.
9. Legacy Letter/Ethical Will
A legacy letter also known as an ‘ethical will’, is a way to share your values, blessings, life’s lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love, and forgiveness with your family, friends, and community. An ethical will is not a legal document; it does not distribute your material wealth. It is a heartfelt expression of what truly matters most in your life. An ethical will may be one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts you can leave to your family and community. This document is designed to pass “ethical values” from one generation to the next. Traditional wills involve what you want your loved ones to have. Ethical wills involve what you want your loved ones to know.
10. Asset Distribution List
This is a list of how you want your assets distributed. Have this discussion with Turner Law Firm, PLLC and/or spouse or appropriate family member, trustee, etc. This can be a range of cash, property, family memorabilia- a “who gets what,” type of list.
11. Guardian for Your Minor Children
A decision as to whether you want to name a Guardian for Your Minor Children, if any.
12. Tax Consequences Of Your Estate Plan
Tax consequences of your estate plan by choosing account types and forms of ownership of key assets. A discussion with your accountant/CPA and Turner Law Firm, PLLC as to the tax consequences of your estate plan will need to be considered.
13. Check your Digital Footprints
Check your digital footprints. Most people aren’t aware of the full extent of their digital presence and a review of the steps necessary to protect online information after your death or if you are no longer able to act is warranted.
14. Letters to Your Spouse/Family
Letters to Your Spouse/Family. Consider writing a letter to your spouse or family regarding your wishes should you need to be removed from life support. This letter will make their doing so a great deal easier if you reiterate that this is your wish with a personal, not formal, request. See also legacy letter/ethical will.