Estate planning can feel overwhelming for individuals without children or close family members. Here are a few steps you should take, even in the face of uncertainty.
Not knowing the “perfect” way to craft an estate plan may lead you to do nothing at all – but this is a huge mistake, regardless of the size of your estate. Remember, if you pass away intestate, or without a will in place, your assets and property may fall to the direction of state statutes and the probate courts.
While estate planning can raise difficult questions – even for people with family ties and close friends – there are a few key decisions you should make right away, even in the face of uncertainty:
Choose an executor for your estate. Options exist beyond family members and friends, including lawyers, banks and other planning professionals. While making this choice can be difficult, your advisor can help with the decision, and he or she can also contact a Raymond James Trust consultant for additional support.
Create a living will. The document states your wishes should you be placed on life support or suffer from a terminal condition. Having it in place ensures that your physicians are aware of the action you want taken in the face of difficult end-of-life decisions.
Name a healthcare proxy or power of attorney. He or she will be tasked with making decisions about your health in scenarios not covered by your living will. As with your executor, you have the ability to ask a non-relative, such as a third-party professional or clergyperson, if they're willing to accept the responsibility. Note that your advisor can also help in selecting someone to act on your behalf if you become unable to tend to your finances.
Select beneficiaries for your 401(k) plans and life insurance policies. These won’t pass through your will, so you need to be clear about where you want your assets to go. Having trouble deciding who should receive your legacy? Think about your passions in life and consider tying your assets to charities for those causes. Your advisor can help you consider your options.
Having these decisions in place is an important first step to ensuring your estate is left the way you intend, regardless of familial ties – and be sure to review your selections regularly in case your circumstances change.
Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.