Estate Planning for Dummies: Everything You Need to Know

Worldwide, every minute, 120 people pass away. Death is not something we like to think about, but it is a certainty in all our lives. We don’t get to choose when our time on this world ends. One minute you’re there, and the next, someone has to carry on without you.

How can you help your family, friends, and loved ones carry on after you pass? The answer, establish an estate plan today.  Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action. Getting started on your estate plan is not as hard as you might think, but it helps to have a starting place.

To help you get started with your estate plan, we put together this short Estate Plan for Dummies article that boils down the complexities of estate planning into bite-sized morsels. 

Of course, we don’t think you’re a dummy at all. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you were! Here’s what you need to remember about everything you’re about to read. You don’t have to be a legal genius, to start the process of protecting your family. You can start today, with the right help!

Estate Plans for Dummies: What You Should Know About Estate Planning

Estate plans cover a lot of different aspects of your life, including personal wishes, healthcare desires, financial matters, even self-advocacy. Most people are familiar with at least one idea of estate planning. Often the document people tend to start with is a Last Will & Testament.

In your last will, your goal is to identify tangible and intangible assets and to describe what you want to happen with them, clearly. Beyond assets, your last will provides a platform for you to share thoughts and even embed other parts of your estate plan, such as a trust.

Tips for Writing Your Will

When you sit down to write your will, you might want to identify to the best of your ability, the answers these questions.

  1. What properties do you own?
  2. Will you need a guardianship plan for your children?
  3. Who will be your beneficiary?
  4. Who should get ownership of pets?
  5. Who is your executor?
  6. Have you considered a trust?
  7. Do you trust anyone else to make financial decisions for you?
  8. Do you trust anyone else to make healthcare decisions for you?
  9. How much will your estate pay in taxes after you die?
  10. Is there anyone you DON’T want inheriting any part of your estate?

These questions are only the starting point. Many situations could make your last will difficult to draft on your own.

Clarifying Final Wishes

While answering the questions think about who will be there to interpret the answers you’re pondering. Will it be your eldest child? A grandchild? Your spouse? Try to frame your answers in ways that would make sense to them. This person, or these people, will be the executor of your decisions.

Your executor will be responsible for ensuring the beneficiaries of your will receive what you want them to.

Choosing Power of Attorney

Power of attorney, or POA, gives someone the authority to act on your behalf regarding legal matters, financial situations, or in regards to your health. In this article, we’re mainly talking about two types of POA.

First, there is the financial POA. This POA is the person who will be able to speak on your behalf about your finances if you can’t be there, or are unable to manage them due to ongoing health concerns (dementia, incapacity, etc.).

Second, is the healthcare POA. In New York State, the proper title of a healthcare POA is a Healthcare Proxy. Your healthcare proxy is the individual that will make decisions on your behalf regarding crucial health matters. Some of the decisions your healthcare proxy might make for you include life support choices, and following through on a do not resuscitate order, or basic healthcare decisions if you’re not able to understand them at some point.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Assets

More and more, digital assets are becoming a standard part of these estate planning discussions. Your digital assets include things like usernames and passwords for your online accounts, logins for your computer(s), phones, and other devices, perhaps even an online business.

Having information regarding your digital life and assets available for your chosen loved one ahead of time can save them a world of trouble, and heartache. Now, they’ll be able to easily log in to pay bills or access other types of financial information. On a more personal level, they can access your photos, your documents, even your social media – and start taking the necessary steps to store those aspects of your life elsewhere or in the case of social media, transition them appropriately.

Make a Plan That Works

We hope that in reading our Estate Planning for Dummies, you’ve got a list of questions longer than the ten we gave you in the article. If so, that’s great! We are here to help you figure out those answers.

At Yana Feldman & Associates we understand how personal, and unique each estate plan needs to be. We know how intimidating the planning process can be when you’re facing it alone. It’s our mission to relieve any stress you may have about the planning process.

Reach out to us today using our contact us page, and let us tell you how we can help.