The Top Ten Legal Steps to Take Before You Die
No one likes to think about dying. Yet we all know that it is inevitable. Perhaps some of our anxiety about dying could be alleviated if we take the necessary steps to protect our families and our assets. Below, are the top ten legal steps that you should take to protect your family and your assets before you die.
1. Hire an Estate Planning Attorney: An estate planning attorney knows all the tools of the trade and can best advise you on how to protect your assets and those you love by creating legally valid documents such as a will and trusts.
2. Write a Will: A will is the cornerstone of most estate plans. It may allocate specific provisions to specific beneficiaries and distribute the rest of your assets that are not specifically named elsewhere in your will or estate plan.
3. Purchase Life Insurance: Whether you work outside the home or you stay at home, it is important to consider the income or services that you provide to your family and provide your family with the money necessary to replace the income or services should you die.
4. Create Trusts: you may create trusts for specific purposes or with certain provisions. For example, you may hold money in trust for your children until they reach a certain age. In some cases, there are also tax advantages to creating trusts.
5. Appoint a Guardian for Your Minor Children: This is among the most important things that you can do to protect your family in the event of your death. You will be secure in the knowledge that your children will be cared for by the person whom you choose to care for them and not by the person whom the state statute or a probate judge assigns for them.
6. Create a Power of Attorney: A power of attorney will be able to handle your business and financial affairs if you become incapacitated.
7. Create a Living Will and Health Care Proxy: These documents will allow doctors to provide the medical care that you want provided in the event that you are unable to verbally direct them to provide that care. A living will provides specific directives as to what medical care you do or do not want in certain situations and a health care proxy appoints a specific person to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
8. Consider Charitable Contributions: You may provide certain assets to the charity of your choice either in the form of a trust or in your will. If have a favorite charity that you want to support and / or need a tax deduction then you might consider charitable contributions.
9. Make Sure Beneficiaries are Named on all Assets Which Pass Outside of the Estate: this may include life insurance policies and certain retirement accounts such as some IRAs.
10. Review Your Estate Plan Every Few Years: As your family and financial situations change, so should your estate plan. For example, you might get married and wish to provide for your new spouse or you may have a child with disabilities whom you wish to provide more for financially than your other children. Similarly, your net worth may dramatically increase making it more important to use appropriate estate planning tools to minimize your estate tax and maximize the amount of money that goes to your beneficiaries.
These ten steps will make sure that all of your legal and financial matters are taken care of should anything happen to you and provide security and predictability for your family and beneficiaries.
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