Key steps for planning your estate, no matter your circumstance
Estate planning can sometimes feel overwhelming for individuals without children or close family members. You may not know who should receive your estate, who should be the executor of your will, or whom you should trust with important decisions should you become incapacitated.
Not knowing the “perfect” way to craft an estate plan may lead you to do nothing at all – but this is a huge mistake, regardless of the size of your estate. Remember, if you pass away intestate, or without a will in place, your assets and property may fall to the direction of state statutes and probate courts.
While estate planning can raise difficult questions – even for people with family ties and close friends – there are a few key decisions you should make right away, even in the face of uncertainty:
Choose an executor for your estate. Options exist beyond family members and friends, including lawyers, banks and other planning professionals.
Create a living will. The document states your wishes should you be placed on life support or suffer from a terminal condition. Having it in place ensures that your physicians are aware of the action you want taken in the face of difficult end-of-life decisions.
Name a healthcare proxy or power of attorney. He or she will be tasked with making decisions about your health in scenarios not covered by your living will. As with your executor, you have the ability to ask a non-relative, such as a third-party professional or clergyperson, if they’re willing to accept the responsibility.
Select beneficiaries for your 401(k) plans and life insurance policies. These won’t pass through your will, so you need to be clear about where you want your assets to go.
Having these decisions in place is an important first step to ensuring your estate is left the way you intend, regardless of familial ties – and be sure to review your selections regularly in case your circumstances change.
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