What will happen to your belongings when you die?

Planning for your death is not an easy thing to do, but estate planning is vital for making the lives of your loved ones and heirs easier once you are no longer around. It also gives you peace of mind while you are still here to enjoy life and those you love.

Planning can be simple, ranging from a will, power of attorney and health care proxy to more complicated documents such as trusts or corporate succession agreements.

Documents that you will need to set up

Will: This includes instructions on how you want to distribute your assets, which can consist of money, property and personal possessions. Naming an executor is one of the most important decisions you will make. He or she acts as your estate’s manager and will handle how your assets will be dispersed. You can also name a guardian who will oversee the financial support for any dependents.

Trust: While a will can be refuted in court, a trust is a separate legal document which allows you to designate specific assets and instructions that usually can’t be challenged. A trust may be a good option if you have substantial assets, dependents that need care, or you are concerned your will won’t be followed.

Check your financial assets every year

Before setting up your will or trust, you should take inventory of all your assets and do it each year, making necessary revisions if there are significant changes. These assets include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Retirement funds, including employer plans
  • Taxable investments
  • Cash-value life insurance
  • Real estate
  • Personal possessions
  • Business interests

Make a list of your debts and personal obligations

All outstanding debts should be included in your will, along with a provision to settle them. These include mortgages, student loan debt, auto loans, credit cards and personal loans to heirs or others.

Any debt owed at the time of death does not become the responsibility of heirs and are paid out of the estate before funds are distributed to beneficiaries.

Create a contact list to notify parties of your death

Just about everyone has dozens of business relationships with various companies and agencies. They need to be contacted and include:

  • Extended family and friends
  • Employer, business partner or employees
  • Post office
  • Social Security Administration
  • Financial institutions where you have an account
  • Utility companies
  • Lenders for mortgages, car loans and credit card companies
  • Landlord if you rent
  • Service providers such as house cleaners, landscapers or personal care providers
  • Social media accounts

Seek experienced legal advice for end-of-life planning

You have worked hard to create security for yourself and your family. Working with an experienced attorney can help manage your wealth, protect your well-being and your family’s future.

Whether you need to set up a simple will or a more complicated trust, an estate planning lawyer here in Ohio can protect your rights to provide for your loved ones and see that your final wishes are followed.

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