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Forensic Genealogists &
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Estate Planning Checklist

estate planning document

Estate planning is an essential part of adulthood. Once you have any other parties depending upon you, be they children, a spouse, family members, or other loved ones, you need to ensure that they will be taken care of in your absence. Proper estate planning also ensures that you are cared for in your elder years, as well as in circumstances under which you are no longer able to make decisions on your own behalf. Below, we identify and discuss a few important parts of any estate plan. If you are an intended beneficiary to an estate or an estate administrator or executor, call a qualified forensic genealogist for experienced assistance identifying the proper heirs to an estate.

Make a Last Will and Testament

The last will and testament is the basic, bread-and-butter estate planning document. Your will dictates what happens to your assets upon your passing. If you do not fill out a will, your assets will pass to your blood relatives in accordance with your state’s intestacy laws. The probate process will likely be more time-consuming and expensive, and it is more likely to lead to conflict between putative heirs when there is no will involved.

With a comprehensive and well-executed will, you can control exactly which assets go to which loved ones or other parties, and you can prevent any conflict from arising. It’s important to not only set up your will initially, but also to update your will periodically to reflect financial changes and life changes, such as new family members, marriage, divorce, and other life events.

Set Up Trusts

Depending upon the nature of your assets, your family, and your estate, you may want to set up one or more trusts. Trusts allow you to provide for loved ones or ensure the transfer of certain assets without triggering estate taxes and other adverse consequences. Revocable living trusts allow you to place your assets with an entity separate from yourself, while still allowing you the freedom to add or remove assets while you still live. Irrevocable trusts grant extra protection against tax liability and can serve other specific purposes. If you have a loved one with special needs, for example, you may wish to establish a special needs trust specifically for that purpose.

Establish Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive

Estate planning is not limited to determining what happens after you pass away. There are important decisions to make while you are still alive to ensure your health and finances are protected. A power of attorney is a legal tool that grants a certain person the power to make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated due to illness, injury, or old age.

You can limit a power of attorney to healthcare decisions or grant power of attorney for financial decisions as well. You can also set certain boundaries, such as executing a healthcare directive (also called a living will) that will guide your power of attorney toward making certain decisions upon your incapacitation.

Get Your Insurance Squared Away

To have a well-planned estate, it’s important to ensure you and your family are covered by proper insurance. Health insurance is a minimum for daily life. You’ll also likely want at least one life insurance policy, and you may also wish to purchase long-term care insurance and other coverage depending on your circumstances and your anticipated needs.

Funeral Instructions and Other Wishes

If you have any preference concerning your burial or other wishes for how you will be sent off upon your passing, you can add those instructions to your estate plan. Funeral instructions are not strict legal documents, but they will help your family work through your mourning with the knowledge that they are handling your passing as you wish it to be treated.

If you’re an estate administrator in need of experienced assistance identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate and for determination of heirship proceedings, or heir research services in order to satisfy due diligence requirements, contact the experienced and diligent forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC at 800-525-7722.