How do you know when it’s time to start planning your estate? Certain life events, such as marriage, having children, etc… can be triggers to begin or update your estate plan, but it’s never too soon to begin considering how you want your estate handled.
This process can seem complicated and daunting, and for that reason, many postpone it for as long as possible. That’s why we’re going to break down the process for you over the coming weeks, in hopes that we can mitigate some of the trepidation related to estate planning.
If you want to see a quick breakdown of 10 steps you can take to plan your estate, you can find a slideshow on Forbes.com that will serve as a backbone to our discussion. The first step identified in that slideshow is to make an inventory.
Map out your Assets and Liabilities
For each liability and asset (whether it’s your home, savings and retirement accounts or life insurance policies, to name a few), mapping out who owns what is crucial if you share ownership of these assets and liabilities with a spouse, sibling, other family member, or friend. You need to know which you own, and which you own jointly with another.
Fair Market Value (FMV)
For each asset and liability, you should determine the fair market value. This will help you not only determine where you are on the taxation threshold for both federal and state estate taxation, but also will assist you in determining how you want to leave your estate to any beneficiaries (for example, do you want to gift some of it each year?).
Have you ever babysat for someone or hired a babysitter? Just like the list of important phone numbers on the refrigerator (pediatrician, neighbors, relatives’ cell phones), you want your estate plan to include the contact information for any advisers with whom your executor or beneficiary may need to consult. This can include (but isn’t limited to): attorneys, bankers and stock brokers, and tax advisers.
Once you have these lists ready, you’ll be better prepared to make the decisions that will help you form a well-planned estate.