Having your affairs in order at the end of your life is often one of those things people have on their to-do list, yet they keep putting off the task. Planning for your own death may seem morbid and depressing, but being prepared at any age can mean the difference between making your loss a little easier on your loved ones or creating a stressful burden. The process isn’t particularly difficult or painful plus there are a wide range of online resources to assist you.
Investopedia summarizes the importance of planning quite succinctly: “if you want your assets and your loved ones protected when you no longer can do it, you will need an estate plan. Without one, your heirs could face huge tax burdens and the courts could designate how your assets are divided, or even who gets your children.” Investopedia is indeed a great resource for no-nonsense answers for all of your investing questions.
Another great resource is The Money Guy Show, a podcast (available on The Money Guy Website as well as on iTunes) featuring Brian Preston and his co-host Bo Hanson, both carry the titles of CPA, CFP®, and PFS. They cover a wide-range of relatable financial topics. The appeal of The Money Guy Show is that Brian and Bo “help you go beyond common sense.”
Getting started is easy. Create a list of your assets and gather any documentation related to those assets, i.e. statements for bank accounts, retirement accounts, loans, etc. Be sure to include hard assets as well, such as your home and car, regardless of any pending liens on those items. Don’t forget vacation homes and even time shares as they are all assets.
Once you have all of your information pulled together – think of the information-gathering as being similar to gathering your information at tax time – it’s time to determine how in-depth you need to go. A great starting point for this step is a visit to LegalZoom. The best part of using LegalZoom is that they’ll have an attorney familiar with your state’s laws who can review your plan and make certain it meets the requirements of your state.
Should you or the attorneys at LegalZoom determine that your estate is complicated, you may want to find a local attorney who can help structure your will and your estate plan. Finding an attorney can be a daunting task. This is a great time to reach out to friends, business associates, or family members and ask them for a referral. There are online options for locating a local attorney to suit your needs. Lawyers.com and LegalMatch.com both have a find a lawyer tool. You can also visit your state’s bar association to search for the type of attorney you need and ensure they’re in good standing with the bar.
With all the resources available, there’s really no reason to wait to start your will and estate planning, take the time to get your affairs in order! You’ll be happy you did, and so will your loved ones.