With the holidays coming and going, you’re probably busy. You’ve got a lot on your plate, from gift shopping and preparing large family dinners to ringing in the new year. The holiday season is a joyous time, but it becomes overwhelming and stressful all too quickly. Just remember, as the new year comes and goes, it’s time for fresh beginnings. The start of the year is a great time to begin estate planning and getting your financial affairs in order. Maybe you’ve been thinking of some resolutions to commit to, and creating or updating your estate plan is a fantastic starting place. Life passes by in a flash, so don’t wait to plan for your future. Continue reading to view our 2023 estate planning checklist.
Here are seven items to check off your 2023 estate plan to-do list:
If you don’t already have a will, now is the time to make one. A will is a legal document that states how you’d like to distribute your assets once you’ve passed away. Thinking about death isn’t pleasant, but protecting your assets and—more importantly, your family—is crucial. Already have a will? Remember to update it. As time goes on, your wants and needs change. You should reflect those changes in your will. You could also consider creating a revocable living trust. A trust a contract with yourself or your spouse to retitle your assets into the name of the trust, so you can avoid probate. This is an effective way for many people to create an estate plan that provides a soft landing to surviving loved ones. Already have a trust? Consider updating it.
In your will, you can also appoint an executor of your estate. An executor is a person who carries out your will and goes through the probate process once you’ve passed away. Your executor should be someone you trust to follow the guidelines in your will. Anyone can be your executor: a close friend, relative, or even your adult child. A trustee serves a similar function as an executor, for a trust.
A power of attorney (POA) is an excellent resource for ensuring you’ll be taken care of if you become incapacitated. Thoughts of incapacitation can be overwhelming, but it’s good to be prepared. With a POA, you’re giving an appointed person the legal authority to make decisions for you in case you cannot make decisions for yourself. There are several types of POAs, but two common ones are financial and medical powers of attorney. A financial POA allows someone to make financial decisions for you, while a medical POA allows someone to make medical decisions for you. Your POA can be any person you trust to take care of you in the case of incapacitation, such as a close friend, relative, or adult child.
While similar to a power of attorney, a living will is a different but equally important document. A living will is a legal document that details your wishes regarding medical decisions. For example, you can decide whether or not you want to be an organ donor. Another example is determining whether you wish to pursue tube feeding and for how long in an emergency. Living wills ensure you get the care you need and want if you become incapacitated or can’t make decisions for yourself.
If you have children, then it’s essential to consider their inheritance. Once you pass away, how will your assets be divided among your children? You may also think about whether your minor children are financially responsible enough to inherit your assets. If not, a beneficial option would be to put their inheritance in a trust, so they don’t have immediate access to it.
You can also appoint beneficiaries in your will. Beneficiaries are the people you want to give funds or property to once you’ve passed away. You can nominate whoever you want as a beneficiary, such as your children. Having beneficiary designations ensures that your assets get divided accordingly once you’re gone. You can use this to-do item in the checklist to review and update your list if you already have beneficiaries. Relationships can change, so you may want to add or remove beneficiaries from your will. You can also change who gets what or how much a specific person receives.
Finally, here are some other tips and considerations for your 2023 estate planning checklist:
If you have any questions or concerns about your estate plan, contact an estate planning attorney from Johnson Legal. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.