Regardless of your family situation, it’s important to have certain estate planning essentials in place so that your legacy is left the way you intend.
Estate planning can sometimes feel overwhelming, and those without children or close family members may be especially uncertain about where to begin. You may feel as though there isn’t an obvious choice for who should receive your estate, execute your will or make important decisions if you become incapacitated.
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 close family ties – 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. It’s also possible to appoint both a corporation and an individual to serve as co-executors, or name a corporation as agent for the executor, offering an assist to this important role. Your advisor can help you weigh your options, and they 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. This person 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.
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. As with the other roles listed here, 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 your family situation. Be sure to review your selections regularly in case your circumstances change.