InvestingPersonal Finance

What you need to know about Planning Your Estate

Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are only two things that are certain in life: Death and Taxes.” Death and taxes are both uncomfortable topics for most people, but they are both important topics to talk about, especially in relation to each other.

If you already planned your estate when you were younger, you are steps ahead of where many people already are (more like miles ahead). But, as you age things change so it’s possible, even likely that there are a few adjustments that need to be made to your estate. If you haven’t even created a will or estate, you should do so as soon as possible. Here are a few things to know:

Current List of Assets: You need a list of anything of value. This includes jewelry, artwork, investment accounts, vehicles and property. Make sure you keep track of any licenses or intellectual property you own as well. You may also want to include family photos and memorabilia. Keeping this information handy will make it easier for your family to figure out what needs to be taken care of after you are gone.

Deciding who gets what: This often feels petty and awkward, but if you don’t do it your family may have a mess on their hands. It’s unfortunate that families that otherwise get along often get testy, if not downright mean about their parent’s estate. Take time now to divide up your important items so the family doesn’t have to do it later. Consider choosing items that you know each family member cherishes.

Power of Attorney: This is particularly important as you age. You need to appoint someone who can act in your behalf should you become unable to do so yourself. The person you grant power of attorney too will be able to manage your estate as well as make medical decisions if you are in the position where you cannot make those choices yourself. Ideally, you should also have something in your will/estate that tells your wishes about being preservation of life.

Beneficiaries: When you divide up your estate and/or life insurance policy, whoever is listed on the most current version of the document will be the beneficiary. If there have been any deaths or divorces you’ll want to update these documents as quickly as possible. You may have added a few members to the family you want to include, make sure you update your will regularly to assure everything is up to date.

Last wishes: It can be helpful to provide a list of last wishes for your family. Not only will this help your family budget your funeral properly, it can take away some of the work they’ll have to do in a short amount of time.

Taxes: Keep in mind that your estate can be taxed upon your death. Life insurance is not taxed. When preparing your estate it’s helpful to try and pay off as much debt as possible, this makes it easier for your family to manage the financial aspect of your estate.

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