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Be Prepared With Estate Planning

March 9, 2021

Be Prepared With Estate Planning

Estate Planning Tips

You don’t have to be a Hollywood star, a professional athlete or a wealthy business owner to create an estate plan. All too often people think their assets are not big enough to worry about, and some worry that the cost of drafting a will could be really expensive. It’s also important to remember that there is a lot more to estate planning than simply thinking about a will.

Proper Planning

Your first step should include organizing your financial assets.  Make sure your family and/or personal representative can find your insurance policies, deeds, titles, pension information and financial account records as well as a list of passwords for online accounts.  All of this information needs to be kept in a secure location. 

Assemble a list of debts that you may have such as car loans, mortgages etc. Make sure you have contact information and account numbers for all of your loans. Also be sure to think about any insurance you have, as well as any annuities you can pass on to your loved ones, and include a list of any charitable organizations that you support. This is a great way to let your beneficiaries know what causes are close to your heart. 

Review joint ownership and beneficiary designations

Consider adding a joint owner to your credit union accounts or designating a beneficiary.  In the case of joint ownership, both owners have complete access to the account's funds.  Upon the death of one owner, the joint owner's right of survivorship means they now own the funds in the account. 

An account beneficiary is the person or persons designated to receive the assets or funds from your financial accounts when you pass away. Beneficiaries are typically designated for your credit union savings accounts, checking accounts, certificates of deposit, IRAs and more.

Having a joint owner or designated beneficiary will simplify the account closing process for your family members.

Draft a will

Having a will is an integral part of your comprehensive financial plan. A will allows you to name beneficiaries, distribute personal property and if you have minor children, name their guardians. While difficult to think about and plan for, this is one of the most important and caring things you can do for your family. 

How do you get started?  Hire a lawyer to draw up your will or use will-preparation software and write it yourself. Note that if you prepare a will yourself, you may want a lawyer to review it to ensure it meets your state’s legal requirements. Be sure to follow directions about what kind of witnesses you should use to sign your will and what documents need to be notarized. Do your homework.

Set up a living will

And don’t forget to also make a living will that will give guidance to doctors and family members about end of life decisions. These are known as advance directives. This is a real gift you can give your family as it prevents conflicts and disagreements at the time of your death. Once again, every state has different laws and practices when it comes to wills and estates.

Consider naming a financial power of attorney

Giving someone power of attorney will allow a trusted individual to take care of your financial affairs should you become incapacitated.  How do you get started?  Honesty and trustworthiness are two of the most important traits this person must have. It does not have to be a family member. An estate-planning attorney can help you draft the legal forms to assign power of attorney.

Remember that waiting around and procrastinating might be your biggest enemy. Just pick a time and get started.

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