The time to get your affairs in order is before you die or become incapacitated. The time is now. These steps will help:
- Prepare a durable power-of-attorney for finances. This gives a trusted person broad authority to handle your finances if you become unable to handle your own affairs. This person becomes your agent or attorney-in-fact (but doesn’t have to be an attorney).
- Protect your children’s property by naming a property guardian, custodian, or trustee to manage the property and money you leave to your minor children. (This could be the same person as the personal guardian you name in your will).
- It may be a good idea to purchase life insurance if you have young children, a mortgage on your home, or you may owe significant debts or estate taxes when you die.
- Name a pay-on-death beneficiary for accounts held by your bank or retirement plan administrator, and that are not listed in your will or trust. This makes the account automatically transfer to your beneficiary upon your death, allowing the funds to skip the probate process.
- You might pre-arrange and pre-pay for your funeral. Consider a Totten Trust (if allowed in your state) with your bank and deposit funds into it to pay for your funeral and other final arrangements
- Consult with tax and estate planning professionals to reduce or avoid estate taxes.
- If you solely own a business, you should have a succession plan. If you own a business with others, you should have a buy-sell agreement.
- Store important information and documents in a safe place, where your executor and attorney-in-fact can find it. These would include your will, any trusts documents, insurance policies, real estate deeds, auto titles, certificates for investments [stocks, bonds, annuities, IRAs or 401(k)s, Totten Trust or funeral pre-payment plan], and information on accounts and debts (banks, credit cards, loans, mortgages, mutual funds, safe deposit boxes, any unpaid taxes, and utilities).