Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A

The Basics of Estate Planning (Even If You Don’t Think You have an “Estate”)

Estate Planning is a means to ensure that those who depend on you financially aren’t left with more grief and hardship than necessary. With this estate-planning checklist, you will learn how to prepare so that your loved ones don’t have to worry more.

1. Decide who the recipients will be. If something happens to you today, who would benefit from what you will be leaving behind? If you’ve recently gotten married or divorced, you need to make changes to your bank accounts, life insurance policy, corporate benefits programs, your will, and any other accounts that list a beneficiary.

This assures that your financial dependents, current spouse, next of kin or whomever you wish to be your beneficiary is properly identified.

2. Decide on an estate plan. Having an estate plan can help your loved ones avoid unnecessary legal and financial hassles and expenses, while guaranteeing that your final wishes are carried out as intended. When it comes to an estate plan, here are some factors to think about:

Have you created a will? A will specifies who takes possession of your belongings/assets in the event of your demise. Seek assistance from a legal counsel or a financial expert to draft your will.

Do you have a living will or proxy? A living will detail your wishes for end of life care. For example, if you are in a car accident resulting in a vegetative state requiring life support, a living will determine whether or not your appointed proxy can “pull the plug.”

Who has power of attorney? A person who has power of attorney is the one who makes decisions for you should in case you are unable or unavailable to do so. This includes signing any legal documents and dealing with all of your financial and legal affairs. This can be an attorney or a friend or family member you’ve deemed appropriate.

Who will care for your children? If you are a parent, you will need to think about guardianship and decide who will look after your children in the event of your or your spouse’ demise.

Do you have a revocable trust? A revocable trust (or living trust) provides the details of who your heirs are. However, unlike a will, it cannot be challenged in court. A living trust determines who will receive your assets upon your demise, but until then, the owner retains full control of the assets.

Or should you have an irrevocable trust? Irrevocable trusts are their own legal entities. Should you need to remove some assets from your estate for tax purposes, you can put them in an irrevocable trust, which in essence becomes the owner of those assets.

Because life is in a constant state of flux, estate plans should be reviewed every five to seven years. If you don’t already have one, meet with an estate-planning professional or a financial advisor for expert advise.

3. Purchase life insurance. You absolutely need life insurance when someone else depends on you financially. With the proceeds from a life insurance policy, your spouse and/or children can continue to meet their everyday expenses and plan for the future, such as college or retirement.

4. Organize yourself and your finances. Create a spreadsheet of all of your accounts, their numbers and locations. Print out a copy and keep it with your will, insurance policies and any other financial documents. Keep a copy in a safe deposit box, your attorney’s office and/or a safe at home. If you ever need to update your information, revise all existing versions.

Whether you hire a lawyer, financial advisor or take care of the documents yourself, basic estate planning will ensure that your finances and their allocation are dealt with properly.

At Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A, we have a wide range of financial solutions to help you in planning how to manage your estate. Give us a call so you could speak to an Advisor Contact us now Today!

Estate Planning Lawyer Jacksonville