Everyone needs to consider preparing an estate plan, regardless of the amount of their estate.  What many people don’t understand is that they do actually have an estate, and if all of its parts are added up, people have more assets than they think, says Federal News Network’s article “Your bigger-than-you-think estate.”

The downside is that many people don’t realize that this is the case, until after a loved one dies. When that happens, as it inevitably will, it’s far better to have planned for this eventuality than letting the courts, relatives, the IRS or the state decide what to do with what you worked your entire life for.

One of the most loving things you can do for your family is figuring out what you own and determining how you want it to be distributed after you die and then actual prepare an estate plan.

Someone who has worked all their life, has money saved in a 401(k) or other types of retirement accounts, owns a home that they bought decades ago or even more recently, usually has a bigger-than-they-think amount of assets accumulated.

So how do you begin? Start with this estate plan checklist:

Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Your beneficiary designations ALWAYS supersede your will. Some of your largest assets are not controlled by your will, but by beneficiary designations. For federal employees, this includes the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), and any other life insurance policies. Do you want your beneficiary to be a surviving spouse? Children?

Is your will up to date? How about any trusts? Most people have their wills done and then forget about them. That’s always a big mistake. We experience changes in life, and our wills need to reflect those changes. If the people you named as executors years ago have died, moved or no longer trustworthy, do you have a successor executor named? Are they still alive, or are they still the person you want to execute your will? Make sure you also consider your children and their circumstances. If you have a child with special needs in your family, or if a child of yours is going through a divorce or likely to go through a divorce in the future, an estate planning attorney will be able to help you plan for their situation.

Are your financial and health care power of attorney and medical directives in place? Making plans for incapacity is as much a part of estate planning as your will. If you became ill or injured and could not make decisions for yourself, do you have the documents that will allow someone else to do so on your behalf?

An estate planning attorney can work with you on all these matters, so you can rest assured that your estate plan will transfer the assets you accumulated over your life. Don’t procrastinate—this task can be done before the year is over, if you start soon.

Reference: Federal News Network (October 2, 2019) “Your bigger-than-you-think estate.”