Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
Planning can be quick and easy, or so slow and deliberate that it is never done.
Estate planning is not just focused on death, but on everything between now and when you die. This means the good days as well as some crummy ones. Here is a short list of steps to take to set up or maintain your estate plan:
• Assess your current situation.
Write on a sheet of paper who you expect will help in an emergency if you are unable to care for yourself, and who will handle your affairs when you die.
Make a one-page inventory of your assets listing each asset and its approximate value.
Fill an envelope with copies of your estate planning documents – Last Will and Testament, Trust, Financial Power of Attorney, Health Power of Attorney and Living Will. Add your monthly or quarterly statements from life insurance, bank, brokerage, retirement and mutual fund accounts.
Check the beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts to see that they match your wishes.
Put all of this information in a safe place and tell the person you are relying upon to help in an emergency or wind up your estate where to find the envelope.
• If you have minor children, be certain you have a Last Will and Testament that includes who will be the guardian for your children if you die before they reach age 18.
• If you have personal items you want to go to a specific person, write that list. Describe each item so there is no dispute. Instead of listing “my favorite necklace”, describe it as “my 18-inch pearl necklace”. Take that list to your attorney to ensure your list is incorporated into your planning documents.
• Decide where you want to live the rest of your life and take steps to make it happen.
• Look at your estate planning documents. If they reflect your current wishes, great! If not, make an appointment with your attorney to bring your plan up-to-date.