No one wants to think about their own passing, but it’s pretty much the natural conclusion of being alive, don’t you think? And one thing that goes without saying: the earlier you begin estate planning, the better off you are. There are a number of choices ahead of you. Most of them will be difficult. Nonetheless, they must be made. You owe it to the people closest to you. This asset checklist for estate planning will provide a simple guide for putting your affairs in order. It will also ensure that you’ve anticipated every potential issue that can occur when distributing your assets after you have passed. Hopefully, that day won’t come for a long time, but if it does, this guide (along with our Estate Planning 101 article) will help ensure you are prepared. Drafting a Last Will and Testament A will has three fundamental purposes. Those are: Distributing of your assets and your property Determining guardianship of children (if they are still minors) Setting up an executor to your property There are a number of different kinds of wills, and beyond wills, there are other options like living trusts that allow you to distribute your assets. Nonetheless, having some means to make your wishes known to those you have left behind will resolve any potential infighting over assets. There are also a number of different ways to draft wills. Those with few assets might consider drafting a simple will. These can be found online but might not account for complex situations or line up perfectly with state-specific laws. For instance, those who live in Florida are restricted on who they can name their executor. The will also requires signatories at least one of which will need to be a notary public. The best solution is to involve a lawyer. What to Do if You are Alive But No Longer Capable of Making Decisions Though there are others, the major difference between a will and a living trust is when it takes effect. A will goes into effect only after a person dies. A living trust can go into effect the moment you are either incapacitated or can no longer make decisions on your own behalf. While living trusts do cost money to set up, this is an excellent option for those that have Alzheimer’s running in their family. Wills have been known to be contested. A living trust is much more difficult to contest. On the other hand, a living will can accomplish the same thing. It basically specifies who is allowed to make decisions on your behalf if you can’t make them on your own. There are a number of other documents that can effectively accomplish the same thing. Those include: Joint ownership Durable power of attorney Determine which makes the most sense for your situation, and move forward with one. Filing Beneficiary Forms Beneficiary forms can be attached to individual bank accounts and name a beneficiary to whom the account is transferred upon your death. Life Insurance Coverage It’s a good idea to take a look at the scope of your life insurance coverage and compare the amount paid out at the time of your death to your current and projected financial obligations. Managing Your Federal Estate Tax For individuals and couples that have more than $5.49 million in assets, managing the significant tax associated with these assets may become necessary. It will be due immediately upon yours and your spouse’s death. Managing Your Business Do you have a plan in place for what happens to your business when you pass? For those who have joint ownership with other parties, it may be necessary to draft a buyout agreement in advance. It may be easier on your heirs than inheriting a portion of a jointly owned venture. Letter of Instruction A letter of instruction is not designed to be a legally binding document but making your wishes known to your loved ones, heirs, and others can save your loved ones time and effort when managing your estate. Funeral Arrangements Funeral arrangement costs are drawn from the estate, so setting aside some of that money to manage this aspect of your death can save several headaches for your family in terms of cost and planning. Establishing something specific may not be on top of the to-do list, but it allows those who love you to feel like they’re satisfying your wishes. It also prevents fighting over what others believe your wishes would be. Ensure that the Documents Outlining Your Wishes are Easy to Find You don’t want to send your heirs on a scavenger hunt searching for the various documents that outline your wishes. Preferably, you’d like everything in one easy-to-find place. These will include, alongside life insurance policies and will and trust documents: Titles to real estate properties Certificates for stocks, annuities, and bonds Bank account and safety deposit box information Information concerning mutual funds Retirement plan information like 401(k)s and IRAs You will also want to provide transparent information concerning your debts so that those can be cleared up as painlessly as possible. Death isn’t easy on anyone, least of all the person who is passing. But it’s our responsibility to ensure that our passing is as smooth on those we’ve left behind as humanly possible. Ensuring that your affairs are in order before traveling down that road makes the transition on everyone easier.