Estate Planning: 12 Things to Do Before You Die

Estate Planning: 12 Things to Do Before You Die

When you die without settling your estate (by clearly stating how each of your assets would be disposed and who they will go to) through a will or trust or other estate planning tool, your surviving family and loved ones have to go through a lot of trauma doing your job for you and the state may have different wishes concerning said estate due to intestacy, which most likely would not benefit them as you may have wished. To avoid such discrepancies, below are 12 things which you must put in place before dying:

1. Take inventory of your assets

Take a careful and detailed list of all material items which are in your name, including assets as large as real estates, and those as small as jewelries, antiques, etc. It would speed things up by naming a beneficiary for each item.

2. Take inventory of all intangible assets

After listing the physical material items, make a detailed list of all non-tangible assets such as bank accounts, insurance policies, IRAs, and list their location of the documents containing your ownership agreement, as well as information on the companies involved.

3. Itemize your debts

Next, you should carefully list out all debts and financial obligations which you may have fallen into during your lifetime, including existing mortgages, auto loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOC), etc. Also include details of every credit card which you own including those you may not have used for some time.

4. Pen down your membership list

List out all associations to which you may belong, such as a professional association, veterans club, an alumni group, the AARP, etc. Often, being a member of these associations come with some benefits which you do not want your survivors to miss out on. Also include any charitable organizations to which you have often made donations, as it would give your family an idea of what legacy you want to keep.

5. Ensure safety for these lists

To avoid your list easily getting lost, ensure you make copies and keep each in a different place. The original copy should most preferably kept with your appointed executor.

6. Ensure your beneficiaries are correctly designated for each asset

Make a review of all your accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies, ensuring that the beneficiary designated to each is as you currently desire. Each of these retirement accounts, annuities and insurance policies will pass on directly to the beneficiary regardless of your specification on how it’s to be done. You may need to contact your fiduciary, employer customer service team, or the estate planning lawyer in your service to ensure your beneficiaries are currently as you wish.

7. Draft a will

A will is a very important and inexpensive estate planning document which every adult citizen should have. Most estate planning lawyers will help you create your will at a considerable rate, and will individualize the will based on the complexity of your estate such that your personal wishes would be effectively executed at your death. Ensure you designate a competent executor who would see to it that your instructions are carried out. You should seek and contact one of the best estate planning lawyers around you for legal advise and assistance in drafting your will. Have copies of your will and keep the original in a safe, while your executor gets a copy. However, only the original will bearing your handwritten signature will be probated in court.

8. Update your will regularly

From time to time, check your will to see if it meets with all your current heart desires. Birth of a new baby, new marriages, divorce, etc., may influence a change to your choice of beneficiary, and as such you should duly apply such changes.

9. Make use of the TOD feature

A transfer on death (TOD) feature is one which helps avoid probate for an asset to which it is assigned. Many accounts such as personal bank savings, brokerage accounts and CD accounts are probated everyday, and whether or not one dies intestate, probate must be done. To avoid this, simply contact your custodian or bank to assign TOD designation to your accounts.

10. Consolidating your accounts

Over the course of your life, you may have been involved in different jobs offering different 401(k) retirement plans which may still be open with different retirement plans. At your death, there would be a great deal of paperwork to be done in order to manage and dispose these many accounts. It would be more cost-effective and easier when all these retirement accounts are consolidated into one.

11. Other important documents

For your own good, you may require creating other legal documents besides a will such as a Trust, a living will, power of attorney, healthcare surrogate, and even guardianship for your minors. Your spouse should create a separate will to address a case when they die before you.

12. Contact an estate planning lawyer

You may think that you have covered all possible loopholes and may fold your hands to rest, but any slightest mistake can render your estate to shambles. As you get older, there may arise a need to update your will, insurance policies, healthcare documents, possibly because of changes in state regulations and tax laws, which would invariably affect your bequests. To ensure you are constantly on a right footing with the law, contact and hire into your service a competent estate planning lawyer near you with whom you have to maintain a regular feedback.

Do not wait until it is too late. Start planning for your future and that of your family now. Contact an estate planning lawyer today.

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