Want to ensure your valuable assets are protected and your wishes are followed if you die or become suddenly incapacitated? Don’t forget these six crucial steps:

  1. Prepare your estate plan
    Remember, a complete plan includes not only a will or trust, but also the power of attorney so you can appoint an agent to make financial decisions and the health care proxy and living will so your agent can make medical and end-of-life decisions.
  2. Ensure that your assets have been transferred into your Trust
    This includes bank accounts, real estate, automobiles and the like, and if desired or necessary, make the Trust the beneficiary of your retirement plans and insurance policy .
  3. Discuss your estate plan with your family
    Gone are the days when a will or estate plan was kept secret. It is far better to discuss your wishes with your family when you are alive and can answer questions then to let them find out about it after you are gone.
  4. Tell your family where you keep your important documents:
    Not only your estate plan should be readily available but also have access to bank records and business records.
  5. List your various accounts
    You should make a list of all your bank accounts, by name and account number. But don’t forget your online banking accounts. Make sure to list all user names, passwords and security question answers, as well. That goes for all your online bill paying services, retirement accounts, insurance accounts, email accounts, and other social media sources, i.e. Facebook.

While these may seem innocuous, what you take for granted— checking your email or keeping track of bills paid— will be a monumental task for your family if they don’t have this information. For obvious reasons, this information should be kept secure, but stored where your agent can easily access it. Make sure they know where it is and keep this information up to date.

Address the inevitable
If you have prearranged your burial or cremation plans, those plans should be included in your estate plan with confirmation of payment made in full or any outstanding amount.