Establishing an Estate Plan

Establishing an Estate Plan — Follow These Important Steps for Your Peace of Mind


Many people spend a lifetime working to own a nice home, raise a loving family and enjoy the benefits of their hard-earned savings. But the reality is, over half of Americans today do not have a will or an estate plan in place to ensure the successful transfer of assets to loved ones.

Review and discuss your estate plan with those who it will affect.

A good estate plan includes both the advanced planning and the paperwork necessary to ensure that your assets will pass without problems to your loved ones when you're gone. Make time to prepare a well thought-out estate plan. This will help protect the people you love from having to face unnecessary problems, such as potential legal issues, taxes or other fees that they may not be prepared or equipped to handle.

Here are the essential steps for creating a sound estate plan:

  1. Take inventory of all your assets, including real estate, business interests, financial accounts and holdings, insurance policies, retirement savings and personal possessions that have sentimental or monetary value. Understanding the value and status of all your assets is an essential step in estimating what taxes may be owed at the time of your death.
  2. Identify the people or groups that you want to inherit your assets, which may include family members, friends, or even organizations you wish to support in the future.
  3. Identify the person or persons you can truly trust to handle your finances and make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated or die.
  4. Seek professional legal and tax advice. Make sure you understand the legal and tax implications of your estate plan and get help preparing the paperwork. This will help ensure the successful transfer of assets to your loved ones.
  5. Review and discuss your estate plan with those who will inherit your assets as well as those you count on to make decisions and help manage the distribution of assets according to your plan.
  6. Do the necessary paperwork to implement your estate plan. Essential tasks may include: preparing a will, assigning a power of attorney, defining a living will or health-care proxy, specifying beneficiaries for financial accounts or insurance policies, or creating a trust that may reduce estate and gift taxes and allow for distribution of assets without extensive delay or cost.

Taking the time to think through and complete each of these steps will give you peace of mind knowing that the assets you have worked so hard to acquire will continue to support and protect the people you love after you have passed on.