Five estate planning tips to help process go smoothly

First steps for estate planning

Here is an estate planning checklist to help you organize your estate and, depending on your individual situation, you might discover other items that need to be addressed. It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with the executor of your will, your lawyer, or financial and tax advisers.


1. Write your Will

If you haven’t written and filed your will yet, it’s the best place to start. A will allows you, and not the courts, to determine what happens to your money and possessions when you die. It can also reduce conflict with your survivors. Not only should you consider your beneficiaries in your will, you can also designate charitable intent. Charitable people may want to include a gift to their favorite charities through their estate. It is helpful if you let the recipient know of your future gift and how you would like the gift to be used.

2. Calculate your worth

As part of writing your will, you should calculate your net worth, including life insurance policies. If you have a substantial net worth, consider talking with a tax or financial adviser to determine the steps needed to minimize or eliminate the impact of estate taxes.  For example, an advisor might suggest you establish a trust. This is a legal entity that holds property designated by you for the benefit of you and your beneficiaries.

3. Choose a healthcare proxy and complete an advance directive

Once your will is written, signed and filed with the local court, you should complete an advance directive. This is a legal form that outlines your wishes in the case you cannot make healthcare decisions on your own. In 2017, Tennessee law combined the content found in a living will, advance directive and medical power of attorney into one form called an “Advance Directive for Healthcare.” You can read up on Advance Directives in earlier blog posts.

4. Write instructions for your survivors

It will help everyone if you spell out your wishes beforehand. Let them know what type of funeral service you wish to have, whether you want to be cremated or buried, and even who you want your pallbearers to be. Be sure to include anyone you want to be contacted, as well as where your will and other key papers can be found. The instructions also can provide information about your financial accounts and activities.

5. Enlist the help of a friend

Designate a trusted family member, friend or your attorney as executor and provide them with the location of confidential or valuable items you may have put away for safekeeping. To aid in probate, give them everything: spare keys and security codes; a copy of your will and advance directive; and anything else they may need to close your estate. Also keep signed, original copies in your attorney’s office as well as a copy in a fireproof file at home.

For questions regarding estate planning laws, contact the Law Office of Michael Craig and we’ll be glad to assist you.