Creating an Estate Plan: A Checklist

February 22, 2023 by Spectrum Credit Union

No one likes to think about it, but having an estate plan in place can save your family a lot of discomfort, confusion and stress in their time of grief.

While the word “estate,” may make it seem like only the wealthiest of us need an estate plan, that simply isn’t true. Everyone should have at least the basics in place. And thankfully, it doesn’t take much to pull what you need together.

This checklist can help you build your estate plan and then rest easy, knowing your family is covered.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is essentially a group of documents that spell out how you want your assets (aka your “estate”) managed after or bequeathed if you become ill or pass away. You can also use your estate plan to decide who will essentially become your voice, acting on your intentions when you no longer can.

If you pass away without at least a will in place, your state may end up deciding how your assets are divided.

Thankfully, putting an estate plan together doesn’t have to be complicated. With Spectrum Credit Union’s partner, Affinity Trusts, you can access complimentary educational workshops and even connect with vetted estate planning attorneys who can help you create an estate plan that reflects your wishes.

Estate plan checklist

While an estate planning attorney can guide you through the process from start to finish, knowing the steps to come can make what is often an uncomfortable situation for everyone go much smoother.

Inventory your assets

Your first step should be to create an inventory of all your assets including:

  • Property
  • Vehicles, boats and any heavy machinery like farming equipment
  • Household furnishings and art
  • Jewelry and clothing
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment and retirement accounts
  • Life insurance
  • Pensions

Tip: Store titles, deeds and other important documents together while you’re creating your inventory so those can be easily accessed by your loved ones (or attorney) later.

Decide on a power of attorney

Your power of attorney acts on your behalf, ensuring your wishes are met. This can be any adult you trust, such as adult children, your spouse or a sibling.

Create a will

Your will is the backbone of your estate plan. At a minimum, it should include:

  • The name of your power of attorney
  • Designate plans for any property, including who the title should transfer to or if the property should be sold and proceeds divided
  • Define any charitable donations you wish to bequeath
  • Appoint a guardian for any minor children

Consider a healthcare power of attorney

While your financial power of attorney has the legal right to act on anything related to your assets, your healthcare power of attorney has the right to act on behalf of your medical care should you be unable to do so yourself.

Consider a living will

This document essentially spells out your wishes for end-of-life care and treatment. It is also known as an advance medical directive.

Consider estate tax obligations

In some cases, your estate may be responsible for paying inheritance tax. Consider working with an estate planning attorney or tax professional to make sure your bases are covered.

Keep your estate plan active

Whether you build your own or work with an attorney, be sure to periodically update your estate plan. This is especially true if your financial situation is altered or you go through major life changes, such as getting married or divorced, having a child or a change in health status.

Spectrum Credit Union is here to help you, even with difficult topics. We partner with Affinity Trusts to provide free educational workshops and connect you with vetted estate planning attorneys.

Have questions about building an estate plan? Check out the upcoming free webinar on Thursday, March 2nd, 2023 at 10 a.m. PST. 

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