Thinking about death is uncomfortable and thinking about our own death is something all of us tend to avoid with a passion. It also explains why so many people are reluctant to take on the task of estate planning. Still, there are some uncomfortable questions you do need to ask yourself before it is too late.
Here's a list of questions to think about as you begin the estate planning process:
1. Who will raise your children if both parents die? If you haven't named a guardian, the court will do it for you.
2. Who you look after your pets when you die?
3. What happens if you and your heirs all die in the same accident? Who will inherit your assets then?
4. Are their other descendants that may come out of the woodwork when you die? Unexpected claimants can cause all kinds of financial and emotional grief.
5. Have you named someone to look after your financial and medical matters if you become incapacitated? These are known as durable power of attorney, and don't have to be the same person.
6. If you are incapacitated and placed on life support, when do your family to cease heroic measures to sustain your life?
7. Have you left a record of your usernames, logins, passwords and security questions to important accounts (bank, financial accounts, etc.) in a safe place where your heirs can access them?
8. Do you want to provide for children born from stored genetic material (embryos, eggs or sperm)? If so, how many years do you want to leave a window open for a birth?
9. If you are changing gender, documents that show two different sexes can cause all kinds of problems. Make sure to disclose such a change and to change all documentation.
10. Gifts over $15,000 per person per year must be reported on a federal gift tax return. Have you made any such large gifts or do you plan to make any in the future?
11. Have you ever entered into a pre- or post-nuptial agreement? Have you ever signed a community property agreement?
12. Do you have any serious or chronic health issues? Your answer may change how an estate planning attorney approaches your Will or Trust.
While these are some of the important issues to consider, every person has their own unique circumstances and concerns. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you think over all the issues and create a plan that allows you to protect your loved ones and pass on your assets in the way you want.
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