Wills and Estate Planning

How Do I Get Started With Estate Planning?

Estate planning may force you to think about life after you're gone, but it prepares a way to care for your loved ones even in death. It doesn't have to be complicated. Start with this checklist.

The Best Time to Plan Your Estate Is Now

An 8-Point Estate Planning Checklist to Help Get You Started

Face it. None of us want to think about our own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for ourselves. But this is why many families like yours are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death happens.

But as the saying goes, “By failing to prepare, we prepare to fail.” And a good reason why it's important to not wait to get your estate plan in place. The following is a basic, eight-point estate planning checklist that can serve as a starter guide to help you prepare for the unexpected.

Take inventory.

Here, you'll want to create two lists - one for physical assets and one for non-physical assets. Physical assets include items such as your home, jewelry, collectables, firearms, etc. Non-physical assets are things you own on paper or any other entitlements that are predicated upon your death. For example, bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and so on.

Make a will or a living trust.

Creating a will provides your instructions after you're gone, stating who you would want to inherit your property, and names an adult guardian to care for minor children should something happen to both parents. However, a will won't help you avoid probate. For this reason, you might want to consider a living trust. A living trust can help your loved ones avoid the expensive and often lengthy probate process.

Select your estate's administrator/executor.

An administrator is a trusted individual who is responsible for ensuring that the rules of your will are carried out according to your wishes. This is a very critical step because if you do not designate someone, the courts will do it for you. You can name your spouse, but be sure to have a backup should you both pass away simultaneously.

Create a durable power of attorney for your healthcare and finances.

Here's where you can give a trusted individual the authority to manage your financial affairs and carry out your healthcare wishes if you become too ill or incapacitated to speak for yourself.

File beneficiary forms.

Naming a beneficiary for your bank accounts and retirement plans will automatically ensure that the accounts become “payable on death” to your beneficiary, thus allowing these funds to avoid the probate process altogether.

Make a list of your debts.

Make a list of all your open credit cards and debts such as your mortgage, vehicle loans, and lines of credit. If possible, try to update this list every year.

Review and update beneficiaries.

Review your will, life insurance, annuity contracts, and any other critical documents to make sure the beneficiaries are listed the way you want.

Make copies.

It's a good idea to make three copies of your documents (will, asset lists, etc.). Provide one copy to your estate administrator, put one in a safe deposit box, and retain the third for your records.

Remember, don't wait. You can put a very basic estate plan in place now, and change/update it later. For more information on wills and estate planning, visit the Protective Learning Center.

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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax‐related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit www.protective.com.

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Estate Planning Checklist

Creating an estate plan doesn't have to be complicated. A good place to begin is with this helpful estate planning checklist. Here you'll discover that it just takes a few simple steps to get the process going. As you mark off each box on your checklist, you'll take inventory of your current assets, create a living will, select beneficiaries, and review your information. Helping your family prepare for the unexpected never felt so organized. For more information, visit our learning center.

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