Estate planning may seem overwhelming and something that can wait another day, but it’s also one of the most important steps you can take to protect your loved ones in the event you pass away or become incapacitated. To help you get started, we are sharing seven tips for estate planning in North Carolina.
What Is Estate Planning
At its simplest definition, estate planning is the process of putting your affairs in order to ensure your estate is handled according to your wishes after you pass on. The goal of estate planning is also to make sure that your beneficiaries receive their inheritance while minimizing the impact taxes have on your estate.
Properly planning your estate before your passing can also keep it out of probate, which is the legal process by which a court-appointed individual analyzes and authenticates your will and estate. If there isn’t a will, the court distributes your estate according to state inheritance laws. This can keep your estate tied up for months after your passing, causing stress and hardship to your loved ones.
Estate Planning Checklist
Now that you know what estate planning is, we’re sharing a step-by-step checklist of actions to take.
1. Inventory Your Assets
First, take an inventory of all your tangible assets and estimate their value. This includes:
- Property, including your house
- Vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, and boats
- Collectibles, such as coins or antiques
- Checking and savings accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plans such as a 401K or an IRA
2. Draft a Last Will and Testament
Knowing what you have, you can now draft a last will and testament which will include:
- Naming an executor who will ensure all debts are settled from your estate, care for your property before it’s distributed, and be in charge of making sure your assets go to the designated individuals
- Naming heirs to receive your assets, property, and belongings
- Naming guardians for minor children
3. Designate Beneficiaries for Non-Probate Assets
Insurance policies, pensions, and retirement accounts are not included in a will. Instead, you will have named a beneficiary for these accounts when you set them up. Make sure the beneficiary on these accounts is who you want the money to go to instead of an ex-spouse or someone who may have already passed on.
4. Create a Living Will
In addition to a will that outlines how you want your belongings distributed, make sure you create a living will. This is a written document outlining your wishes for medical care in the event you’re incapacitated. You can also name someone you trust as your medical power of attorney, giving them the legal right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
5. Financial and Insurance Documents
Gather copies of all financial, insurance, and property documents, including:
- A list of financial accounts for your checking accounts, credit cards, mortgage, and vehicle loans
- Copies of your life, health, vehicle, and home insurance policies
- Titles and deeds for all property, including your home and car
You can also name a financial power of attorney, which is a trusted individual who can make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
6. Proof of Identity Documents
Keep your identity documents, including your Social Security card, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other legal documents in an easy-to-find location so your heirs can settle your estate more easily.
7. Name a Digital Executor
With so much of our data and information located online, consider naming someone you trust as a digital executor and provide them with a list of your digital assets as well as logins and passwords. This can include:
- Bank accounts and financial accounts
- Social media
- Streaming services
- Digital files, including online images and documents
Schedule a Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
We understand that estate planning is difficult, and you want to provide a seamless, simple transition to care for your family after you’re gone. Consult with an estate planning attorney who can help you draft your will, set up revocable trusts, and protect your assets on behalf of your loved ones. To set up a consultation, call us at 919-615-2473 for our Raleigh office or 919-365-6000 to reach our Wendell office, or fill out the form below. We look forward to helping you with your legal needs!
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