February 21, 2019 • Retirement 101 / Articles and Insights

Seven Steps to Consider When Creating an Estate Plan

“Let’s talk about what’s going to happen after you die.”
 
What a great conversation starter, right? Most of us don’t like thinking about dying, or what would happen to our loved ones when we die, but sometimes it’s necessary.
 
Creating an estate plan is one of those necessary times. An estate plan lists and explains what should happen to your property, possessions, and wealth when you pass away, so your wishes will be carried out the way you intended. That’s why an estate plan may need to be part of your overall retirement strategy. When it’s implemented properly, it can help set up your loved ones financially and provide them with a plan on what to do with your assets and possessions.
 
To complete your estate planning, here are seven things you should consider to prepare yourself and your loved ones.

1. Do an Inventory

To accurately gauge what you have and what you want to pass on, do an inventory of your non-physical assets. This means your bank account, 401(k), life insurance, IRA, or any other type of insurance or assets you may have. You can also write down some of your physical assets, such as your car, home, or other major items.


2. Write Down Your Passwords

While you’re in the inventory mood, write down your password and account information for any online accounts you have. Examples include: bank accounts, 401(k), phone service, social media accounts, Netflix, internet service, mortgage company, or insurance companies. Make sure you keep these lists up-to-date as you change passwords or make new accounts. It’s a good idea to keep these in a secure, but accessible place, like in your safe or electronically in a secure system.

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An estate plan lists and explains what should happen to your property, possessions, and wealth when you pass away, so your wishes will be carried out the way you intended.

3. Review Your Beneficiaries

Take that list of assets you created and review who your current beneficiaries are for each of your policies and accounts. Is your beneficiary information correct and current? Does anyone else need to be added? Is anyone missing? This is an important step in helping to ensure your wishes are carried out after you’re gone.


4. Choose an Estate Executor

Who of your family and friends is the most responsible? That person may be a good estate executor. Whoever you choose will be responsible for fulfilling the rules stated in your will, so make sure they are willing and able to carry out your wishes. This may be your spouse, but it could also be a close friend or relative.
 
Once you’ve selected someone, send them copies of your will and the inventory list that you made, so they know their responsibilities in the event of your death.


5. Get a Will

If you’re older than 18, you should probably have a will. In simple terms, a will explains how to distribute your assets, so your heirs and family members aren’t clueless or left to figure it out on their own. Basic wills aren’t very expensive to create, and you can even do it online.

6. Meet with an Estate Attorney

This one’s important. An estate planning attorney can help you review and update your existing estate plan, or create one for the first time, and a financial professional can help you get the financial pieces sorted out. An estate attorney will ask you the necessary questions, help you get your assets and information organized, help create a will, and ensure that all the details are in place.
 

7. Don’t Procrastinate

A survey from Caring.com reveals that only 42 percent of U.S. adults have prepared an estate plan. They also found that 47 percent said the reason they haven’t done any estate planning is because they haven’t gotten around to it.1
 
The hard and unfortunate truth is that none of us know when we’re going to die, so it’s important to be prepared. An estate plan ensures your wishes will be carried out when you pass away, and it can be an essential part of your retirement strategy (and overall life strategy), to help you leave your loved ones with a lasting legacy and can ensure that they’ll be taken care of in the way you want.

RWS and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Always consult with qualified advisors concerning your own situation.

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