Planning Steps for Your Estate

Get a Will and Other Documents Prepared

The basic building block of your estate plan is a will. Even if you think that your estate is minimal, a will is still an essential document. We suggest that you use an attorney to prepare your will.

If you are married, each spouse should have a separate will indicating how the assets should be distributed under two scenarios: 1) if you survive your spouse; and 2) if he or she survives you.

SUGGESTION: If you are leaving your estate completely to your spouse through your will, ask your attorney to include a Simultaneous Death Clause. It states that if your spouse dies within a short period of time (two to six months) of your death, the executor should act as if your spouse predeceased you. Without this clause, all your assets would go to your spouse and then pass under his or her will. Your own family (example: parents and siblings) runs the risk of not receiving anything.

When the will is prepared, make certain that you read it carefully and understand each clause of the document. Have the attorney explain each part to you, and if it is unclear, ask questions. Once you sign this document, the court will assume that it is what you want to do. Be sure that what you're signing represents your wishes.

SUGGESTION: Bring your worksheets with you and have the attorney use them for guidance in drafting the will.

While you are with the attorney, ask about other legal documents, (durable power of attorney, living will, and medical durable power of attorney). These important tools should be part of your complete estate plan.

SUGGESTION: Make sure you prepare your Letter of Instruction.

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