Estate Planning for Seniors

Estate Planning for Seniors

The topic of death, although inevitable, is one that many shy away from. Although death is an unpleasant topic, it is important to plan for the end of your life to simplify decisions for those around you. Estate planning includes everything that will be transferred after the person's death, such as assets, life insurance, real estate, vehicles, debts, and other items. Also, estate planning helps minimize gift, estate, income and other taxes if done properly.

To make things easier, we have compiled a printable list of necessary tasks for setting up your estate plan. Please note that this list is a basic understanding of what you should do, but for professional advice, please see an estate planning attorney.

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Printable Checklist

Take Inventory of Your Assets

The topic of death, although inevitable, is one that many shy away from. Although death is an unpleasant topic, it is important to plan for the end of your life to simplify decisions for those around you. Estate planning includes everything that will be transferred after the person's death, such as assets, life insurance, real estate, vehicles, debts, and other items. Also, estate planning helps minimize gift, estate, income and other taxes if done properly.

To make things easier, we have compiled a printable list of necessary tasks for setting up your estate plan. Please note that this list is a basic understanding of what you should do, but for professional advice, please see an estate planning attorney.

Tangible Assets

Start by taking inventory of the tangible items that you own around your home. The tangible items worthy of inventory will have a value greater than $100. Examples of this would be vehicles, jewelry, artwork, electronics, etc. List out these items and take pictures as well that so there is no misunderstanding as to where it will go.

Intangible Assets

After you are finished taking inventory of your tangible items, you should also take inventory of any intangible items. Intangible items may include 401k plans. brokerage accounts, IRA assets, bank accounts, etc.

Estate Planning for Seniors - Tangible and Intangible Assets

Monitor Your Debts

Compile a list of your debts (like mortgages or car loans) or open credit cards. You should do this so that anyone who inherits your assets won't be surprised by claims to collect your outstanding debt. Your estate administrator may handle these debts prior to distributing any assets.

Consider a Will

The main part of estate planning that most people think of is a will. A will is a legal written document that coordinates the distribution of your assets and other activities after you die based on your specifications. Your will estates inheritability of items but can also be used to specify an executor, guardians for underage children, allocation of debts and taxes, and more.

Will can be drafted through an online software or through an attorney. It is also best practice to have the will notarized and signed/dated with two witnesses present if possible.

If you already have a will created, review it to make sure that your wishes are still relevant and revise it as needed.

Consider a Living Trust

A living trust, similar to a conventional will, specifies your desires in terms of assets and your dependents/heirs, except it is in effect while your alive. Consider putting together a living trust to provide protection in the unfortunate event that you become physically or mentally incapacitated. Also, a living trust will avoid probate of assets and debts in court compare to a will.

Living trusts can be created through online software or through an attorney. Again, make sure it is notarized and signed/dated with two witnesses if possible to provide the best protection.

Review your living trust if you've already created one and make revisions as necessary.

Assign Transfer on Death Beneficiaries

Assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries for your financial accounts. These may include bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and CD accounts. If a TOD beneficiary is not assigned, the assets become costly due to being probated by the court. Assigning a TOD for your accounts will dismiss the probate process.

Estate Planning for Seniors - Assign Transfer on Death Beneficiaries

Choose an Estate Administrator

After you pass, an estate administrator is responsible for implementing your will. Choose an estate administrator that you believe will make the best decisions in your behalf. This can be someone you know personally so focus on factors such as decision making abilities, level of responsibility, and control of their emotions.

Consolidate Your Finances

If you have multiple accounts open, consolidate these into as few as possible for lower costs, more control, and easier management by your estate administrator. Check all of your accounts such as brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, etc. and try to consolidate these into singular accounts if possible.

Review and Organize Your Documents, Accounts, and Policies

Make sure to periodically review all of your documents, accounts, and policies to ensure that they are up-to-date based on your current life situation. Remember that life changes constantly, so make sure to be on top of all the above.

Planning your estate sounds like a daunting task, but being proactive is beneficial towards ensuring a smooth and organized end of life experience for you and your loved ones.

Work with a Financial Planner or an Estate Attorney

Working with a financial planner or an estate attorney periodically can ensure that everything is set in place properly as you age. They can help sort out all your finances or assist in planning your estate. Unexpected issues may arise like tax related activities or insurance needs. Seeking professional help to be there for you in these situations will keep your mind at ease.

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Printable Checklist
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