When we design an estate plan for you, there are three main pieces of the planning: People, Property and Plans. Giving thought to each piece will help us design the most effective plan to meet your needs. That requires you to consider:
Who are the Important People in your life? Beginning with yourself, they also likely include your loved ones: your spouse if you are married, children and grandchildren if you have any, perhaps your parents, siblings or other relatives. Beyond these, however, “Important People” also could include charities, special causes, colleges or universities, or churches to which you are committed. For some, “Important People” could even include pets. Spend some time thinking about the impact others have had on your life. Make a list and jot notes if you like. This is where the planning process truly begins.
By Property we mean your assets in general. Make a list of the assets you own or control. At this point, you do not need to identify insurance policy numbers and exact dollar values. Rather think through your assets in terms of their nature (cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.); their value in thousands of dollars; and your ownership interest: Do you own assets in your name only, in joint tenancy with someone else, or through a trust agreement or some other arrangement? Be sure to include often-overlooked assets like life insurance (the death benefit, not the cash value), business interests, and any inheritance you may expect to receive.
After identifying the Important People in your life and your Property, the next step is to consider the plans you would make for those people (including yourself) and that Property in the event of your own incapacity or death.
Who would you name to make decisions for you if you could no longer do so yourself?
Would the same person handle your finances and your personal and health care decisions?
Who would care for your minor children?
How would you distribute your assets to your heirs?
These are just a few of the issues to consider when approaching the planning process. They are much more important than the tracking down legal documents at this stage.
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