You spent a lifetime building your wealth. You deserve confidence that your financial legacy will pass on to your heirs in accordance with your wishes. Proper estate planning and documentation* are the keys to ensuring assets are distributed as you intend, instead of at the discretion of the courts.
These tips can help you prepare to successfully pass along your legacy.
1: Create a Will
A will is a legal document providing instructions on how you would like your assets distributed after death. Even though writing a will is one of the most critical things you can do for your loved ones, an AARP survey showed that two out of five Americans over the age of 45 do not have a will
Today, creating a will is easier than ever thanks to the availability of online and do-it-yourself wills resources. However, to avoid the risk of costly mistakes that can easily be contested in court, consider relying on the expertise of an estate attorney. Reassess your will every few years or after an important life event to determine whether updates or changes are needed.
2: Name an Executor
An executor is the person who inventories your assets after you are gone, pays any remaining taxes or outstanding debts from the estate’s funds and distributes assets as specified in your will.
People often choose family members as executors. Others prefer to use an experienced neutral party – such as a representative from your bank or an attorney. Whomever you select, make sure the person is not only someone you trust, but also responsible and knowledgeable about tax and legal matters who has the time to commit to managing your affairs. Consider carefully and choose wisely, as appointing the wrong executor could result in lengthy delays, tax issues or even a contested will.
3: Write a Living Will
A living will tells family members and healthcare providers your preferences regarding pain management, prolonged life support, resuscitation and organ donation. It relieves loved ones from making difficult decisions during times of crises or grief.
4: Create Powers of Attorney
With a durable power of attorney, you can select a person to manage your finances and make financial decisions if you cannot. Likewise, a healthcare power of attorney names the person you want to make health-related decisions if you cannot make them yourself.
5: Share Your Plans
By discussing your wishes and plans with loved ones, you can answer their questions and make sure they understand your wishes. Let key people know where to find copies of your estate planning documents. As you develop your legacy plan, it is also a good idea to consult your attorney, accountant and financial advisor to review the plan for obstacles or holes.
Although getting your affairs in order before death can be uncomfortable, a well-executed plan enables you to leave your heirs the loving and lasting legacy you intend.