Estate Planning 101: Things to Do Before You Die

Estate Planning 101: Things to Do Before You Die

While there are many things in life you can control while you’re alive, you can’t control what happens after you’re gone. The best that you can do to take care of your loved ones after you’ve gone is to invest in timely estate planning now. There is nothing morbid about planning your estate; it just makes matters easier for your loved ones later on, and it can help keep them from being mad at you.

Here’s how to go about it.

Itemize Your Inventory

Your possessions count as your inventory. When you’re making a list, start with the valuables. These include all the expensive electronics, collectibles, precious metals, jewelry, antique and art pieces, lawn equipment, computers, and power tools. Having a list in front of you will make it easier for you to decide who gets what. While you’re itemizing the inventory, you can even name whoever comes to your mind.  Some people go nuts and list 100 items and specify who gets what. Others take their 2 to 10 most important high-value items such as jewelry and family heirlooms and name a beneficiary for each.  Others leave it entirely up to the executor to decide who gets what household items.

After this, start thinking about  your non-tangible assets. These could include your retirement IRAs, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, insurance policies, , etc. You can leave instructions for beneficiaries such as a list of your assets, the contact information for the holder of those assets, and maybe even the last few digits of the account number.  Just remember to be careful if you ever write out the entire account number because there’s lots of fraud in our world today.

Make a List of Debts

Before you die, you could also make arrangements for any outstanding debt that you owe. You can make a list of all your obligations and credit cards. You could also include any details of your mortgages, auto loans, home equity lines of credit, bank loans, overdrafts, and the amounts owed to friends/family. Like your inventory, try to include the account details, the lending institutions/individuals’ contact information, and the signed documents’ location. If you’re mentioning a credit card, you also need to include those you don’t use regularly. If you’ve deposited any collateral with one of the lenders, specify that too.  But again, be careful to protect your full account numbers, drivers license and social security number because there are people on the hunt for those, so protect them extremely well.

Consult a Professional

Even if you think that you’ve covered all the prerequisites, it might not be enough. A professional estate planning attorney is aware of the local probate law’s ins-and-outs and can help you prepare for them accordingly. They’ll also make surethat your documents say what they need to say and are executed (signed) properly with a notary and witnesses, etc. In the long run, this could save your family lots of time, money and disagreements.

If you’re based in Texas, Mike Massey Law is a leading local estate law firm. The firm operates in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Book your appointment now.

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