Thinking about an estate plan, but not sure where to start? If you are in the early stages of establishing your estate plan, below is a checklist of the major decisions you will need to make:
-Beneficiaries: Who will get your assets (house, cars, personal property, money, etc.) when you pass away? Your spouse, children, siblings, friends, a charity, a combination of these? Are there any specific items such as jewelry or family heirlooms that you would like a particular individual to receive? If you are married with children, consider where you would like your assets to go in the unlikely event that your spouse and children predecease you.
-Trustee: If you have young children, it may be beneficial to appoint a trustee to manage and distribute assets on behalf of your children until they reach a certain age. This trustee will be in charge of a testamentary trust that will be established in your will. Your trustee will distribute assets for the benefit of your children until your children reach an age or life stage as determined by you. Once your children reach the threshold you establish, the trust will terminate and your assets will be distributed to your children free of trust.
-Guardian: If you have at least one minor child, you will want to appoint a guardian in the event that you and your spouse or your child's other parent pass away before your child reaches age 18. Otherwise, you leave this decision up to a court.
-Executor/Personal Representative: Testators typically appoint their spouses or close family members to this role which involves distributing your assets according to your will. It is always a good idea to list a backup friend or relative just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.
-Power of Attorney for Medical/Financial Decisions: Typically, spouses serve as agents for each other when it comes to making medical or financial decisions in the event of incapacity; however, this does not have to be the case. Naming an alternate agent for such decisions is a good idea in the event that your preferred agent is also incapacitated or otherwise unable to serve when needed. You can select different individuals to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, these powers do not need to be held by one individual.
Once you start thinking about these major decisions, you will be well on your way to putting together an effective estate plan.