Are you overwhelmed by everything you need to do to create an estate plan? While it’s better to have everything in place now, if that’s too much to handle and would only result in your putting everything off forever, you can try tackling just one thing each month.
January: Create Your Napkin Will
Start out by covering the very basics. A napkin will is a will written on a napkin. It’s not the best, since it’s harder to prove it’s valid in court, and you can make mistakes without a lawyer, but it’s better to have an outline of your wishes rather than leaving your family guessing. You don’t need to use a napkin — you can type it up or write it on a notepad. Just make sure it’s clear that it’s your will.
February: Get Organized
Make sure your family can find everything. Put copies of your will, lists of your financial accounts, and other important documents all in one place. Tell your family where it is so that they can use it if necessary.
March: Who Will Take Care of Your Children?
Nominate a guardian and a backup guardian to take care of your children if something happens to you. This can be the godparents, but make sure you have the legal paperwork in order. And, of course, talk to anyone you’re considering nominating to ensure they’re willing and able to accept this duty.
April: Prepare for Serious Illness
Set up a combination of a living will, power of attorney, and medical care directive that ensures your wishes will be honored and your affairs cared for if you’re ever incapacitated by a serious illness or injury. Even if you’ve told a trusted family member what you’d want to happen, having it in writing can avoid challenges from other well-meaning family members who may think something else is in your best interests.
May: Name Beneficiaries on Your Bank Accounts
Naming beneficiaries on your bank accounts and/or investment accounts can allow money to go immediately to your designated beneficiary to cover urgent expenses. Many financial institutions allow you to do this online with a simple form.
June: Create Your Will
Once you have the basics down, meet with a lawyer to create a formal will. This will help to make sure you’ve included everything you need to in the proper legal form so that a judge will honor your wishes.
July: Set up a Trust
A trust is a more structured way to leave assets to children, other dependents, or anyone else you desire. Its main benefits are allowing the funds to be more quickly accessed without probate while restricting the use of funds to the purpose you intended.
August: Document Your Income
Create a list of all of your sources of income including your main job, side jobs, investments, and anyone else who owes you money. Your estate is entitled to collect what you’re owed on your behalf, but your family can’t do that if they don’t know about the income.
September: Document Your Insurance
Include your life insurance, health insurance, and other insurance policies in your package of important documents. This will make it easier for your family to pay end-of-life medical bills or other final expenses.
October: Review Your Life Insurance Needs
Calculate how much your children, spouse, or others would need to replace your expected lifetime income. Then make sure you have at least that much life insurance. If you’re not sure, you can meet with a financial planner.
November: List Your Debts
Your debts don’t pass on to your family, but creditors do get paid before the inheritances in your will. Making it easy for your family to understand your debts can help them to settle your estate quickly and avoid being scammed by someone falsely claiming that you owed them money.
December: Schedule a Review with Your Lawyer
Even after you have an estate plan in place, things will change. You may add new members to your family, while others may pass on. Children may grow up and no longer need as much help, while other family members may have health or other struggles. To make sure your estate plan meets your family’s current needs, have Atlanta Wills + Trusts Law Group by Refeca Law LLC conduct a periodic review.
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