“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
- Abraham Lincoln
Perhaps you just attended a funeral, or were diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or having an ‘adulting moment’, and you are thinking about your own mortality and considering your next steps. Yet, fear of taking the next step- do I talk to my spouse or trusted advisor or just wait for this moment to pass? Where do I begin and what do I do? Estate planning provides the means of creating your future and for those around you. It not only gives your final word on how you wish your assets to be distributed after your death but also allows you to lay the framework for emergencies and for your elder years.
Here are a few initial steps to take as you begin your estate planning.
Set a deadline. Choosing to set a deadline is entering into a personal contract with yourself to get your estate planning done. By setting a date on your calendar, you know what tasks you need to achieve and make it a priority over other competing interests. Use the deadline to inspire you and define your purpose.
Reflect on what you would like to achieve. Do you want to provide for your spouse and children? Support a charitable cause like your alma mater or local food bank? Have you recently gone through a major transition, like a divorce or death of a family member and need to carve out some potential beneficiaries? Finally, for parents with small children, whom do you trust to take care of your children into adulthood should you die?
Take inventory of your assets and liabilities. An estate is everything you own including your home, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement and brokerage accounts, and ownership interests in businesses.
- Make a sheet of what you own, what you owe, and what is owed to you.
- Check the titles and paperwork for your assets.
- Review your monthly expenses and income to know where your money is going.
- Collect quarterly/ annual statements from financial institutions.
Find experienced professionals to help you achieve your estate planning goals. Ask for the names of attorneys from your financial advisor, accountant, other trusted advisors, or friends who have drafted their own estate planning documents.
It is critical to create estate planning documents to protect you, your family, and your assets. If you have not created an estate plan yet, take the first step today and schedule your deadline.