One of the most important things that adults can do is make out their estate plan. This is a set of documents that’s meant to help protect your loved ones when you pass away. There are several components that you need to think about when you’re trying to determine what to do. Each of these has a different purpose.
Trusts help to move assets from you to your loved ones without having to go through the probate process. This adds some privacy to the transfer and can help to prevent them from becoming targets of financial abuse or fraud. Some trusts can protect the assets from creditors, and others can help preserve the heir’s ability to receive needs-based assistance.
Some assets, such as bank or investment accounts, are transferred through payable on death designations. You fill these out at the financial institution. In the case of a life insurance policy, the beneficiary is where the funds go when the insured passes away.
Wills transfer assets that aren’t part of trusts and that don’t have payable on death designations. This is a good place to put things like who will get the stained-glass butterfly that everyone in the family seems to want. Remember that wills go through the probate process, so they aren’t private.
You can also set up your plan for if you become incapacitated. This includes writing out your wishes for medical care and naming individuals to take care of your finances and any medical decisions that aren’t included in your written plan.
Once you have your estate plan set up, make sure you take the time to periodically review it. This is especially important when you have major life changes.