Drafting a will is only part of estate planning. Accounting for all assets, ensuring their transfer as seamlessly as possible to beneficiaries and notifying others about your plans should be in your plan.
Inventory assets and debts
The first step in estate planning for average Ohioans is preparing an inventory of your assets. Make a list of all valuable property such as your house, televisions, computers, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles, art, tools, and lawn equipment.
Compile another list of non-physical assets such as brokerage accounts, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and bank accounts. Other important items include life, long-term care, homeowners,’ vehicle, disability, and health insurance policies. Add account numbers, the location of documents for the accounts and contact information for the account firms.
Next, compile a list of financial obligations such as vehicle loans, mortgages, home equity lines of credit and other debts. Itemize credit cards and identify the ones used regularly.
Information should include account numbers, location of documents and debt holder contact information.
Make a list of digital assets such as online accounts and social media accounts. This should contain passwords.
Regardless of your will, the assets of your retirement and other financial accounts and your insurance policies will transfer to the beneficiaries listed on those assets. Review these accounts and policies, especially if you divorced or a family member died, to assure that the beneficiaries are current.
Every adult should have a will to assure that their assets are distributed to heirs as they intended. A guardian may be named to care for your minor children, and someone may be designated to care for your pets.
Selecting a responsible administrator or executor for the will is important. Base this decision upon the person’s competence and ability to devote time to their duties. Grant them access to your digital accounts.
Wills should be reviewed every two years and after major life events. Your assets or decision on your administrator may also change.
These documents are also important:
- Financial power of attorney allowing an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf.
- Health care power of attorney authorizing an agent to assist with your health care.
- Living will which allows an agent to make end of life care decisions in accordance with your instructions.
- Letter of instruction including matters such as funeral plans.
Have three dated and signed copies of your lists and give these lists and a copy of your will to your executor. These and other estate planning documents should also be kept in a secure place and your family members must know their location and have access.
Attorneys can assist you with planning options. They can also prepare these documents.