I will be providing estate-planning chapters, using this blog to help you with your estate.
#1. Getting started with planning your estate.
Answer these two questions. Are you going to die some day? What plans have you made in anticipation of that event? If your first answer is YES and your second answer is NONE or NOT MUCH, you have lots of company. Studies show that well over 50% of the people in this country have no plan to deal with death or serious illness before they die.
How can you get started? Planning is a three step-process.
Step One: assess your current situation and create a powerful vision (goals) of where you want to go, now, while life is good, and also when events occur such as bad days, death, or the need for care as you age.
Step Two: Come up with a plan or strategy to help you accomplish the goals you defined in Step One.
Step Three: Do something! Follow up and implement your plan, don’t just talk about it. Then continue to monitor your plan to keep it up to date so you are fully covered when the bad days occur, which means you die or need care.
The first part of Step One is easy – assess your current situation: people, finances and documents. Start by sitting sit down at the kitchen table with a pad of paper and answer the following questions.
People: There are two groups of people in your life that matter? (1) Who can you trust to help when you need it and (2) who do you want to receive your assets when you die?
Group one are the people you can rely upon to help and you can identify the people in this group by answering the following questions:
- Who will help you in an emergency?
- Who will come to your home at 2 a.m. if you fall? Who will care for you if you are sick for ten days?
- Who do you trust to pay your bills and help with finances if you are unable to write checks for a month?
- Who do you want to talk to the doctor and other medical people on your behalf if you are unable to communicate? Do they know what type of treatment you would want?
- Who can manage your affairs the way you want when you die?
- Who will take care of your children or other dependents if you can’t?
- Who will care for your pets?
Group two are the people you want to receive your assets when you die. This list can be narrow or broad. Do you want to limit the people who share your wealth to just family, or will you include friends and charities? Do you have people with special circumstances such as being too young (age 3) or too old (age 85 and in a nursing home on Medicaid), having drug problems, being on disability or going through bankruptcy? If so, what steps do you want to take to protect their inheritance?
Finances: Create an itemized list of your assets and debts and the approximate current value of each. Include the death benefit of all life insurance with your list of assets. Also identify all sources of monthly or other regular income and the approximate amount received.
Documents: Lastly, gather up all your planning papers and review them. These will include your Last Will and Testament, Powers of Attorney for Powers of Attorney, Living Will, Deeds, Trusts, Partnership and Limited Liability Company Agreements, Community Property Agreements and other papers that reflect your existing written estate plans.
Once you have addressed the issues of people, finances and documents you have completed the first part of assessing your current situation.
Next time we will start with chapter #2 of Step One. Create a powerful vision (goals) of where you want to go, now while life is good, and also in the bad days when death occurs or the need for care as you age.
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