Estate Planning 101: A Checklist (Part Ii)
Welcome to part II of our estate planning checklist. If you haven’t read part I, be sure to check that out and head back here to read the rest. If you have any questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our estate lawyers at the Law Office of Diron Rutty in the Bronx/NYC area today. We would be more than happy to give you the peace of mind of knowing your estate is in good hands after you pass.
3. Establish Your Directives
In order to create a complete estate plan, you will need to establish your directives. These include:
- A trust. With a living trust, you are able to designate portions of your estate to go towards certain things while you are alive, and if you become ill or incapacitated, your selected trustee can take over.
- A durable financial power of attorney. This will allow someone else to manage your financial affairs if you become medically unable to do so. This includes paying your bills and taxes, along with accessing and managing your assets.
- A medical care directive. A medical care directive spells out your wishes for medical care if you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. You may also give someone you trust medical power of attorney for your health care, giving that person the authority to make decisions if you cannot. These two are sometimes combined into one, which is also known as an advanced health care directive.
- A limited power of attorney. This can be useful if the idea of turning over everything to another person concerns you.
NOTE: Be sure to take extra care about who you give power of attorney as they may literally have your financial wellbeing and your life in their hands. You may want to assign the medical and financial representation to different individuals as well as a backup for each in case your first choice is not available when needed.
4. Review Your Beneficiaries
While your will and other documents may spell out your wishes, they may not be all-inclusive. This means that you will want to check your retirement and insurance accounts, as these products usually have beneficiary designations that you will need to keep track of and update on an as-needed basis. These beneficiary designations can outweigh what is in a will, so be sure to keep this in mind while estate planning
You will also want to make sure that the right people get your belongings. People often forget the beneficiaries they named on certain policies or accounts that were established many years ago, which can lead to the wrong people getting part of your estate. A good example of this would be if you have an ex-spouse that is still listed as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy and your current spouse is left to get the bad news that they will be getting none of the policy’s payout after you are gone.
While filling out this paperwork, it is also important to ensure that you do not leave any beneficiary sections blank. In this case, when an account goes through probate, it may be distributed based on the state’s rules for who gets the property. Be sure to list contingent beneficiaries as well, as they are critical if your primary beneficiary dies before you do and you forget to update your primary beneficiary designation.
5. Take Note of Your State’s Estate Tax Laws
While estate planning is often a way to minimize estate and inheritance taxes, most people won’t pay those taxes unless they are very large estates. Just be sure to make note of your state’s estate and inheritance tax laws.
6. Seek Assistance From a Professional Estate Lawyer
While whether or not you wish to hire an estate lawyer depends on your specific situation, it is always recommended. An estate lawyer can help you with answering all of the tough questions and ensure that you have filled out the necessary paperwork and information correctly. This is crucial for ensuring that your estate goes exactly where you want it to and doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. For professional legal advice and assistance, give our estate lawyers a call at the Law Office of Diron Rutty in NYC today.