Have you ever taken into consideration the practicalities of your affairs after your death? It’s often something that isn’t talked about but if you pass away without settling your estate through a will or trust your surviving family will have to endure an incredible amount of trauma to deal with any estate that you leave behind. Not having a will in place can cause significant problems and it’s something that everyone should consider, not just the elderly. So, with this in mind, what can you do to best prepare?
An Asset Inventory
One of your first tasks is to list all of your assets. An asset is a valuable material item that you hold in your name. This could be property such as your home or small items such as antiques, artwork or jewellery. For each of these items you will need to allocate them to a beneficiary.
When you have listed out all of your assets you then need to make another list which will include your non-tangible assets such as any insurance policies you have, bank accounts, savings accounts and investments. All of these should be documented and you should identify where the official records are for each of them and also the companies you took the policies or accounts with.
Over the course of your lifetime you may have accrued certain debts such as mortgages, loans or any equity credit that you have taken out of your home. Those that are outstanding should be listed in addition to any credit cards that you have.
Over your lifetime you may have joined various societies, political organisations and other associations. Being a member of some of these groups will bring with it certain benefits and you don’t want your loved ones who are left behind to miss out on them.
Make sure that all of the lists that you create are stored somewhere safe and family members know where this is. Ensure that your lists are kept up to date and keep at least one copy.
Beneficiaries and Assets
When reviewing all of your assets, make sure that each one you list has a beneficiary. This goes for everything that you own from insurance policies and retirement funds through to material assets such as property and valuables. All of your assets will pass onto a beneficiary regardless of how this process is undertaken. You will need to contact each company to make sure that there are provisions in place to pass your policies, investments and accounts onto a beneficiary when it’s needed.
One of the most important parts of estate planning is to make sure that you have a valid will. Every adult should have one. Most estate planning solicitors will help you create a will and will tailor the will depending on your requirements and how you want your estate to be distributed. Consulting a professional estate planning solicitor is essential because they will have the knowledge and expertise to properly advise you on the legalities of drafting your will. Once the will has been drafted, signed and witnessed make sure that you keep the original in a safe place and leave a copy with the Executor.
Update Your Will
If you make a will in your late 40s, chances are things will have changed by the time you reach your 60s. Mortgages may have been paid off, policies no longer relevant and other assets may have been disposed of. All of these things need to be considered when updating your will. You may also decide to change how the estate is distributed to incorporate grandchildren or the name of the executor may have changed.
Transfer of Death Feature
The Transfer of Death (TOD) is something which is used to avoid probate for an asset which is to be allocated to a beneficiary. There are many things such as brokerage accounts, personal savings and others which are probated every day, but to avoid this you will need to contact your bank or custodian to put in place the TOD feature.
Throughout your life you may have opened up various accounts, memberships and retirement plans. After death this leaves an incredible amount of work to do for your loved ones and will involve substantial amounts of paperwork. Review each of your accounts to see if there are any that you can dispose of, combine or consolidate to make things much easier.
There are other documents that you may want to create to go alongside your will. This could include for example a power of attorney, a living will, a Trust, a healthcare surrogate or even guardianship if you have children. Remember, a will isn’t just for the elderly, every adult should have one which outlines how they would like to have their assets distributed.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer
Whenever you are undertaking any type of estate planning activities it is important that you do so under the guidance of an estate planning lawyer or if it concerns your property, a Conveyancing solicitor in London. As you get older things may arise that require you to update your will, make changes to insurance policies and other issues that can affect your bequests. To ensure that all of these things are legal and valid, it is important that you consult a professional who will be able to walk you through the entire process so you can rest assured that you can start planning for your future and have everything in place when you are no longer around.