The holiday season is incredibly busy, and organizing your legal and financial affairs is probably nowhere close to being on your radar. However, it is easier than you may think and getting started can be quick. With new year’s resolutions quickly approaching, getting organized is both a good resolution and good preparation for additional resolutions. Getting these simple but fundamental parts of life in order can go a long way to getting some peace of mind and providing for your family even better than you already do.
The end of the year means tax season is soon starting. You may have started getting everything in order to file accurate taxes, such as W-2’s, property tax bills, mortgage statements, etc. Of course, your finances are more than just taxes, but you may already have momentum in gathering paperwork, so the additional few papers is probably not too big of a deal. As you consolidate and review everything, you may identify an estate planning need that you did not realize was there before.
Basic Estate Planning
The first step to creating an estate plan is identifying whomever you would like to receive a portion of your estate (the financial assets you have worked hard to accumulate). These individuals are called beneficiaries. This is often children, but could be other family members, friends, or charities. Write these individuals down and what portion of your estate you would like them to receive.
Second, think about what values are most important to you. Or, to put it in another way, what kinds of decisions would you like your beneficiaries to make with the assets they receive from you? This could be education, home ownership, having a profitable career, philanthropy, or other decisions. Write these values down below your beneficiaries.
Lastly, being to identify your different financial asses and how much they are worth. Do not forget to include life insurance benefits. Perhaps separating them by type (real estate, retirement accounts, bank accounts, investments, etc.) may help you organize things and keep them straight. Write these assets down.
Now that you have the basic information, now it may be worth learning about the foundations of estate planning, wills and trusts.
A will says where you want things to go after you pass. A will does not control assets that have beneficiaries, such as life insurance or retirement accounts. Administering a will is public and often gives away your assets in one lump sum.
There are many different kinds of trusts, but the main one is a revocable living trust. Trusts allow your assets to be managed and passed down to loved ones over a period of time, perhaps decades or generations. These trusts are administered privately.
Another kind of trust is a testamentary trust, or a trust created by a will. These kinds of trusts are public but can still allow for the management of distribution of your assets over time.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Estate planning allows you to protect and provide for your loved ones when you are no longer there. Not only does it give you peace of mind, but expresses your wishes, goals, values, and vision to your loved ones. Not only can organizing your finances and estate plan possibly improve how you make impactful decisions, but it can help you leave a legacy of values and wealth to those you care about the most.