6 Basic Steps for Estate Planning
Step 1 – Take Nike’s Advice – Just Do It.
Take a deep breath and relax. Estate planning is your opportunity to review what you have (your assets) and decide how you can use what you have to benefit the people and “causes” you love. Hopefully, Bartlesville First Church is one of those causes.
Step 2 – Whom and What Do You Love?
In this step, you identify those people and causes you love. Consider how you want to use what you own to benefit them. These are the goals you want to accomplish in your estate planning. You may wish to discuss your goals with your loved ones and with the institutions or causes you wish to benefit with your estate. The information you glean from such discussions may help you and your estate planning adviser ensure your wishes are met.
Step 3 – Make a List and Check It Twice.
Your estate plan will only be as complete as the information you provide to your adviser. Take stock of what you have, particularly your financial assets like checking and saving accounts, stocks, bonds and any other financial assets you own. Don’t forget about your home, your cars and any other real estate you may own. Be sure to list any special personal items you have if you wish to designate their disposition.
Step 4 – Get Professional Help.
Estate planning is technical. You may start with a financial planner or an accountant, but you will need an attorney as well since estate planning documents like wills and trusts are legal documents. Your adviser can help you in the preparation of the legal documents and can tell you what you should do about the names on real property and vehicle titles and the beneficiaries on life insurance policies and IRA’s. Your adviser will help you decide when it is appropriate to designate amounts and when it is better to designate percentages.
Step 5 – Life Happens.
Things change. Life situations are one of those. People are born and people die. Institutions and causes change as well. And, governments are constantly changing how the law affects what we do. Because these things change, your estate plan may need to change as well. So, get in the habit of thinking about your estate plan whenever something important changes in your life. And, in addition, it’s a good idea to set a specific time each year when you think about whether your estate plan needs to change. You may wish to do it at each year-end. Or, you may wish to do it whenever you file your income taxes.
Step 6 – Communicate.
Tell your beneficiaries you have included them in your estate plan.