It is widely understood among estate planning attorneys that the optimal time to tackle death-related issues is well before the need arises. When you are healthy, the inevitability of mortality is on the distant horizon. Due to the unpredictable nature of life, we may arrive at that horizon for the sunset of our lives at a time and in a way that we didn’t anticipate. And while you may not care what happens to your wealth or your belongings (after all, you will be resting in peace) you probably do care about how your loved ones will survive both emotionally and financially after you’re gone.
Seven Steps to an Estate Plan:
- Determine what you have: Gather documents which help you determine exactly what you have in your estate.
- Establish your Living Trust: If you have young children, determine who will be their guardian and manage your assets for their benefit.
- Fund your Living Trust: A living trust is a gift that you fund in the present for your friends/family/charities in the future. Funding your trust means changing the title on your home/bank account/etc.
- Create a Will: If you have a living trust, your will is called a pour-over will and works in conjunction with your trust. If you don’t have a Trust, you need a will to distribute your assets.
- Create a Power of Attorney: A durable Power of Attorney takes effect when you are incapacitated and gives your agent the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf.
- Create an Advance Health Care Directive: Decide what kind of care you would like if you are unable to talk to your doctors. Talk to your friends and family to determine who would make the best choice to act as your agent.
- Celebrate! You got your estate plan done!
Zakiya J. Norton, Esq. and Somita Basu, Esq., founding partners of Norton Basu, LLP, an estate planning and probate law firm in Los Gatos | Santa Clara | Los Angeles. https://www.nortonbasu.com/