Important Things to Do Before Planning Your Estate
When it comes to estate planning, getting everything in order involves more than simply writing a will.
And though it is an unpleasant topic to think about, it is extremely difficult to settle an estate without necessary planning.
Organizing your estate plan is one of the most valuable things you can do for your family and loved ones to avoid complications and ensure that your final wishes are carried out.
In order to ensure that your estate plan is properly prepared, here are important steps you should take to ensure a smooth process:
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a process that includes legal documents and preparations for the time of your passing, such as your will, your chosen executor, appointed guardians for your children, and more.
The two main legal documents involved in estate planning include a Power of Attorney (POA) and a will.
Creating an estate plan will give you peace of mind, but it does take some preparation. Here are some important things you need to do before planning your estate:
1. Determine What Documents Are Needed for Your Lawyer
When working with an experienced attorney to properly prepare your estate plan, there are a variety of documents your lawyer will require, such as:
- Your will
- Power of Attorney
- Letter of Intent
- Guardianship designations
Your estate planning lawyer will discuss the necessary documents with you based on your unique needs and situation.
At Heritage Law, our estate planning law firm makes planning your estate easy by providing online forms that you can use to ensure your legal documentation is properly prepared.
2. Choose Your Beneficiaries
Your beneficiaries are those who will inherit your assets.
While you can list your beneficiaries in your will when it comes to physical assets, it’s important that any institutions carrying non-physical assets (like life insurance) are notified of your chosen beneficiaries.
Doing so will help skip the probate process, which is a court-supervised legal process that distributes your assets.
Your beneficiary can be a person, charity, or trust. Most people choose family members as their beneficiaries, especially those who are more likely to face financial hardship following your loss.
3. List Your Assets
Go through the interior and exterior of your home and make a list of all valuable items, including jewelry, collectibles, electronics, antiques, equipment, and the home itself.
As you make this list, think about who you would want to receive each item and make a note.
You also need to list all non-physical and intangible assets, such as things you own on paper, such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, health insurance, and retirement plans.
To keep your information organized, write down all account numbers, the location of physical documents, and the contact information of any firms or third parties holding non-physical possessions.
4. Determine Guardians for your Children
If you have minor children or dependents, it’s imperative that you determine who will take care of them if anything happens to you or their other parent.
A guardian is a chosen person (or people) who will take care of your children.
If you don’t designate a guardian, the courts will appoint one – and it may not be the person you would choose to raise your children.
When considering who you want to appoint as a guardian, here are some things to think about:
- Think about your values and what is important to you as a parent. You want to ensure your chosen guardian will uphold these values during your child’s upbringing.
- Consider the people in your life who would make a good candidate for guardianship. These are typically close friends or family members, and it can be an individual or a couple.
- Discuss your decision with your chosen guardian and see how they feel.
Ultimately, you should have a list of potential guardians in case those you choose do not feel comfortable fulfilling that role.
5. Choose an Executor
The executor is the person who is responsible for protecting and administering your estate and distributing assets to your chosen beneficiaries.
This person needs to be able to commit the time and effort to fulfill this role and must also be capable of making responsible financial decisions.
Whoever you choose as executor is going to have a legal obligation to your estate and must be able to exercise care and diligence when it comes to carrying out your final wishes.
This person must be fair and able to act impartially when it comes to your beneficiaries.
You can always name an estate professional, such as a lawyer, as your executor or name more than one executor in your estate plan.
As a precautionary step, you should name a backup executor in case your chosen executor passes away or cannot take on this role for any reason.
6. Think About Your Funeral Plans
In order to have your final wishes fulfilled, you should notify your loved ones of how you want to be buried and how you want your funeral planned.
You can specify passages you would like read or music you would like played. You can also indicate any charities you would like donations to be made to.
Planning your funeral not only relieves this burden from your loved ones but also ensures that financial preparations can be made to fulfill your wishes.
Funeral plans aren’t legal documents, but they are helpful for your family and loved ones when it comes to planning your funeral.
Estate Planning Lawyers in Edmonton
At Heritage Law, our team of estate planning lawyers in Edmonton is dedicated to ensuring that your wishes are followed and that your family and loved ones experience a smooth process.
You can rely on our professional estate planning services to relieve your family of legal burdens.
If you are looking to prepare your estate, we are here to support and guide you through the process.