On one level, our legacy is something intangible: What kind of person will people say I was? How did I treat people? How will I be remembered?
But we’re here to talk about the more practical aspect of leaving a legacy: What will happen to your assets after your death.
By coming up with a solid plan for your estate, you can ensure that you’re able to provide for your family without saddling them with added debts. Here are some estate planning steps you can take to make sure your legacy is secure.
- Make a will
Most Americans over 45 haven’t drafted a will. Some people say they haven’t had time, while others don’t think they need one.
But when you die without making a will – a condition that’s known as “intestate” – the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will say who gets your assets.
- Give someone power of attorney
It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but there may come a time when you can’t make medical or financial decisions for yourself.
In situations like that, it’s a good idea to have set up health care directives, including a living will and a medical power of attorney that allows your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf.
You can also set up a financial power of attorney arrangement that will give someone you trust the authority to handle your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so.
- Look after your children
If your children are still minors, you should name an adult (trustee) to manage any money and/or property they might inherit. This can be the same person you name as a guardian in your will.
- Fill out beneficiary forms
Another part of estate planning is designating a beneficiary for your bank accounts and retirement plans. This will allow your heirs to access this money and avoid probate court. Most states allow you to register your stocks and other investments to transfer to your beneficiaries after your death.
- Apply for life insurance
If you have younger children, or will owe substantial debts and estate tax when you die, having a life insurance policy can provide a financial cushion.
- Know how estate taxes work
For most people, estate taxes are never a concern. The federal government will only impose a tax on your estate if it’s worth more than – for 2017 — $5.49 million. Married couples can transfer twice the exempt amount tax free.
- Have a funeral plan
Set up a payable-on-death account at your bank and deposit money into it to pay for your funeral and any related expenses. Your estate planning should also include clarifying your wishes regarding burial, cremation and organ donation.
- Keep track of your documents
Your estate lawyer or the person you name as your guardian may need access to certain documents. These include your will, any trusts you’ve created, insurance policies, information on your bank accounts, retirement plans, debts and funeral arrangements.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Estate planning isn’t something you need to do on your own. The attorneys at Gummer Elder Law are ready to assist you.
Contact us today, and we’ll assist you to ensure your financial legacy is secure.