An organized estate is one of the most loving gifts you can leave to your survivors.  If you become incapacitated while you are still living, a thoughtfully prepared estate plan will allow your family to carry out your wishes and know that your loved ones will be secure. This is especially true if you own real property or a business, have a minor or disabled child, expect to leave a surviving spouse, or anticipate needing to leverage Medicaid benefits for your Long-Term Care.  It is always best to consult with a legal, and perhaps financial, adviser to create a formal plan.  Here are 20 steps that will help you organize your affairs and start conversations with your loved ones and those to whom you grant decision-making power on your behalf:

  1. Make or update your Will.
  2. Make a Healthcare Directive (Living Will).
  3. Create Durable Powers of Attorney for financial and healthcare decisions.
  4. Establish a Trust – if appropriate.
  5. Create a letter of instruction.
  6. Understand your non-probate assets, like life insurance proceeds.
  7. Determine if you should plan for estate and gift taxes.
  8. List your computer or digital assets.
  9. Create a list of financial accounts.
  10. List the location of valuable documents.
  11. List your personal data.
  12. Make arrangements for someone you trust to have access to your safe deposit box.
  13. List loan payments.
  14. List other income sources and government benefits.
  15. List all organizations in which you have a membership.
  16. Provide someone you trust the whereabouts of confidential or valuable items you might have stored for safekeeping.
  17. Provide access to your Will and Durable Powers of Attorney to your Personal Representative and Attorney in Fact.
  18. Consider funeral pre-planning.
  19. Provide someone you trust with the name of your veterinarian and care instructions for pets.
  20. Remember to check this list at least annually or any time you have a major life event.

For more information about steps you can take to organize your estate, contact us.