The process of planning your estate appears to be simple enough. All you have to do is determine how you want to distribute everything you own after you pass away. There are quite a few things you have to consider beforehand, though. Our San Diego estate planning attorneys will cover the crucial details that factor into your estate planning checklist.
What is the Estate Planning Process?
Estate planning is the process of creating a plan for the distribution of your assets and property after your death. The estate planning process typically involves the following steps:
- Identifying your assets: The first step in estate planning is to make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, personal property, and other valuable items.
- Determining your beneficiaries: Once you have a clear understanding of your assets, you need to decide who you want to leave them to. This could include family members, friends, charitable organizations, or other entities.
- Choosing an executor: An executor is the person who will be responsible for managing your estate after your death. This can be a family member, friend, or professional executor.
- Creating a will: A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets will be distributed after your death. It also names your executor and any guardians for minor children.
- Setting up trusts: Depending on your specific needs and circumstances, you may want to set up one or more trusts to manage your assets and distribute them to your beneficiaries.
- Reviewing and updating your plan: It’s important to regularly review and update your estate plan as your circumstances change, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, or changes in your financial situation.
By following these steps, you can create an estate plan that reflects your wishes and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death.
Detail #1 – Take Inventory of Everything You Own
People often underestimate how much property they actually own. Taking inventory of your assets may prove that dividing your estate will no longer be a simple matter. It’s essential to compile a list of everything in your possession, which can include the following:
- Residential and commercial real estate.
- Vehicles, motorcycles, and boats.
- Clothing, jewelry, antiques, and family heirlooms.
- Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement funds.
Knowing and calculating all the assets that you own makes it easier to determine how you want to divide everything. This way, you ensure that your beneficiaries receive a fair inheritance. Having a rough idea of what your estate is worth also allows you to determine exactly how much you’re leaving behind, and whether or not advanced planning is needed.
Detail #2 – Find an Executor You Can Trust
The executor (and/or trustee) is a trusted individual who’ll manage and oversee your estate after you pass away. They’re the ones who’ll carry out your wishes and ensure that everyone receives their inheritance as you intended. An executor should be someone who has the following qualities:
- They’re responsible. You need someone you can trust to carry out their duties and follow the instructions you leave behind.
- They’re financially knowledgeable. The executor should also have experience dealing with different assets and financial accounts, or at least know where to find help with this.
- They’re mentally stable. It is best to make use of someone who can keep things under control and not allow their emotions to enter the equation. Cool heads prevail here.
Your executor is also someone who’s ideally younger than you, but still capable of handling the job. Consider choosing a few people as backup options. If you fail to name an executor, the courts then decide who that person will be.
Detail #3 – Make a Guide for Your Executor
You can make things a lot easier for your executor if you provide them with certain information about your estate. This info includes a list of properties/assets that you own and the location of your estate planning documents. The executor must be able to access information for the following:
- Financial accounts
- Insurance policies
- Credit cards
- Loans and mortgages
- Safe deposit boxes and storage units
- Instructions for your funeral and burial
- Contact information of surviving family members
Your Revocable Living Trust and/or Last Will & Testament should include any relevant information regarding settling of your estate. However, it’s also advised that you speak with your executor and beneficiaries about your wishes to help minimize any confusion or conflict after you pass away.
Need Help Creating an Estate Plan?
It’s generally a good idea to hire an attorney to help you get started. Schedule a meeting today with an estate planning expert here at Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys in San Diego. We can guide you through the process and accommodate your needs. Our job is to work through each step of your estate planning checklist.