Issues to consider when evaluating an estate plan for an individual

Issues to consider when evaluating an estate plan for an individual

July 01, 2023

Evaluating an estate plan is crucial to ensure that your wishes are followed after your death and that your loved ones are taken care of. Here's a checklist of some issues to consider:

  1. Will: This is the most basic estate planning document. It should be up to date and reflective of your current wishes.

  2. Trusts: If you have a larger estate or specific distribution wishes, you might consider establishing a trust. This can help avoid probate and maintain privacy.

  3. Power of Attorney: This document names a person who can make financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

  4. Health Care Directives: This includes a living will (your wishes for medical treatment if you're unable to communicate) and a healthcare power of attorney (someone to make medical decisions on your behalf).

  5. Guardianship Decisions: If you have minor children, your estate plan should include provisions for their care and name a guardian.

  6. Beneficiary Designations: Retirement accounts and life insurance policies pass via beneficiary designations, so it's important to keep these up to date.

  7. Estate Tax Planning: If your estate is likely to be subject to estate tax, you might need strategies in place to minimize this tax.

  8. Gift Tax Planning: If you're planning to give significant gifts during your lifetime, you should understand the gift tax rules and potential strategies to minimize this tax.

  9. Asset Inventory: Make sure you have a comprehensive list of your assets (including digital assets) and debts.

  10. Business Succession Plan: If you own a business, who will take over if you're unable to continue running it?

  11. Funeral and Burial Wishes: Though not a legal requirement, it can be helpful to leave instructions for your funeral and burial.

This is a complex area and the right plan will depend on your individual situation, so it's often a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney. Keep in mind that estate plans should be reviewed and potentially updated during life events like marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or significant changes in financial status.