For the many Americans who don’t have children or aren’t close with family members, determining who will handle your affairs if you become incapacitated and who will be responsible for your estate when you die can be a challenge. In the absence of family, trusted friends or professionals often serve as executors. The important thing, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, “Intimidated by estate planning? Here are key first steps,” is to make sure that you do have an estate plan.
If you die intestate, or without a will in place, your assets and property will be disbursed according to state statutes by the probate court. This may result in leaving your estate in limbo, transferring it to relatives you hardly know, or giving a big chunk in probate costs to the state.
While estate planning can raise difficult questions—for those with and without children—there are four key topics that need your immediate attention.
Estate Executor. Select an executor for your estate. It doesn’t have to be a family member or friend. Many lawyers, banks, and other planning professionals can be named to carry out your wishes.
Living Will. A living will is a document that states your wishes in the event you become incapacitated, placed on life support or suffer from a terminal condition.
Designate Your Agents. Name a health care proxy or power of attorney who is tasked with making decisions about your health in situations that aren’t covered by your living will.
Update Beneficiaries. Be sure you designate and keep current your named beneficiaries for your 401(k) plans and life insurance policies. These assets aren’t tied to your will, so you need to be clear on your directions for these proceeds.
These are the basics to ensure that you have the protection of an estate plan while you are living and when you pass. An estate planning attorney will review your options and create the proper documents on your behalf.
Reference: Green Bay Press-Gazette (January 17, 2018) “Intimidated by estate planning? Here are key first steps”