Estate Planning: 3 Things to Do Now

Will

Procrastination is the greatest obstacle to effective estate planning, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead. Estate planning can be time-consuming, but don’t get overwhelmed—take it one step at a time. Here are three simple tasks you can get done this summer.

1. List Your Assets

Before you make a will, take an inventory of all your physical and non-physical assets.  To get started, walk around your home, inside and out, and make a record of everything you own worth $100 or more: computers, jewelry, valuables, power tools, electronics, the home itself, etc. Next, take note of everything you own on paper, such as bank accounts, 401K plans, and all existing insurance policies. Once you’ve listed your assets, make three copies: keep one in a secure location, give one to your spouse, and send one to your estate executor. Don’t have one yet? Head to the next task.

2. Pick an Estate Executor

Parents are usually careful in appointing a guardian for their children, but choosing an estate executor requires almost as much thought. The executor is responsible for making sure your will is carried out, distributing assets among heirs and taking care of debts and taxes. It’s common to pick a spouse, parent, or child—these loved ones, especially spouses, are most directly impacted financially by your passing. However, they are also most affected emotionally and may not feel up to the role, so it’s a good idea to select a backup or someone to assist. Look for someone who lives in-state, and make sure they are dependable, honest, and organized. It helps to pick someone with a background in finance or law, though your executor may choose to hire professional help if needed.

3. Start Your Will

With your assets inventoried and an executor chosen, you’re ready to start your will. Wills aren’t just for grandpa—everyone over the age of eighteen should have one. This is especially important for parents of small children, as the will is where you legally declare a guardian and make sure your kids are taken care of financially. You can find software online to help you get started on your will, but if you have a larger estate, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney. Make it a goal to review your will every few years and after life changes such as marriage or the births of children.

Want more tips to help you set your affairs in order? Find an estate-planning primer in the Winter 2015 issue of the Marriott Alumni Magazine.