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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.