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Five Simple Things to do Before You Die

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

We are two weeks into the New Year of 2021. Many people are focused on the resolutions they made for this year. In the spirit of making personal improvement in our lives, I am providing this article to suggest five simple things that you can do with your estate planning before you die. 

These things will give you peace of mind and help you know that you have a solid plan in place that protects you while you are alive, and distributes your money, property, and other assets to your family and loved ones after you pass away. 

Get Your Estate Planning Done

The first, and most important thing that you can do is to get your estate-planning done. A basic estate plan consists of a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a healthcare power of attorney. For most people, this type of an estate plan is enough to cover everything that needs to be done. However, some people need a more complex estate plan that consists of one or more trusts as well. This could be because they have children who are minors. Or there may be a family member who has a disability. Similarly, a person’s estate may be large and have many moving parts including businesses that need to be considered as well. All of these things can be handled through one or more trusts. 

I’ve found that the biggest impediment for most people in getting their estate plan is that they simply don’t know how to start. We do our best to make the process simple and easy. To determine what your needs are, we encourage you to download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire. This is a PDF document you can download to your computer. You can type your information directly into the document and then save it and email it back to us. 

Once we receive your Questionnaire, we then provide a free 30-minute consultation in person, by phone, or by video conference whichever way you prefer. We do this so we can answer your questions and discuss your specific needs. This gives us the ability to explain the estate planning options available to you, the flat fee prices we charge for each of those options, and how these things will help you and your family. You then have the ability to decide what you want to do and whether you want to hire us to help you get it done. 

Every client who has used our Questionnaire has told us how easy and helpful this made the process of getting their estate planning done. Even if you choose not to hire us, you will find our Questionnaire to be extremely helpful when it comes to your estate plan. 

Inventory Your Property

The next thing that you should do is inventory your own property. This is helpful not only for your estate plan but also for you individually. Having an inventory like this gives you a snapshot or an aerial view or whatever other analogy you want to use that helps you understand exactly what is in your estate. Knowing what is in your estate is extremely helpful when it comes to planning how to handle your estate both while you are alive, and after you die. 

This doesn’t need to be anything complex. Rather, it can simply be an itemized list of your real estate, your vehicles, any type or kind of life insurance you have, your retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401Ks, your bank accounts, and so forth. One or two pages in a notebook will likely be enough to list all of the types of property you have in your estate. 

Create a Creditor’s List

In addition to keeping an inventory of your property, it is also helpful to create a creditors’ list. This would include the mortgage(s) on your home, the loans that are owed on your vehicles, any personal loans you have through a bank or credit union, as well as any credit cards you have. Additionally, you should have a list of all the regular monthly payments you have for any utilities you use or consume such as gas, electricity, internet, phones, and so forth. 

Again, this list is not only helpful while you were alive, to give you an idea of exactly the amount of that you have out there, but it is also extremely helpful after you die. Imagine you are spouse or children trying to figure out your finances without having this type of a list. When this occurs, your family has to dig through your accounts, rummage through your old mailings, and wait for new mailings to come in, all in an effort to continue to handle the debts you had while you were alive. 

Update Your Non-Probate Assets

We’ve already mentioned several non-probate assets that may be part of your estate. These would include life insurance, and retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401Ks. Non-probate assets may also include various types or kinds of annuities as well as any pensions you may have. 

Most of these kinds of assets allow you to specifically name a beneficiary who will receive these things after you die. These types of assets are controlled by contracts. The beneficiary designation is a part of that written contract. Normally, you have the ability to update or change who you list as your beneficiary.

If you have any of these kinds of non-probate assets but you are not sure whether you have named the beneficiary, then we encourage you to contact the account administrator immediately. They can give you a copy of the contract that you signed when this account was set up. This will allow you to see if you have already designated a beneficiary for this asset. If you have not, the plan administrator can provide you with the documents you need to name a beneficiary. The process is simple and easy and should be reviewed regularly to make sure it is current. 

Create a Digital Asset List

Finally, you should create a list of any digital assets that you own. Some people may be confused by this but it’s really simple. We live in a digital age. Because of this, many of the assets people own are digital in nature. This could include online accounts such as Venmo or PayPal. It could also include email, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. 

But this is not all. A person could actually have online businesses that exist, and they will likely also have accounts they use to buy or purchase things such as at Amazon, Walmart, or other online retailers. We usually suggest that our clients create a handwritten list of all their digital assets. The reason we suggest this be handwritten is so that the usernames and login information can be recorded in a way that isn’t located anywhere digitally that could be stolen. 

The handwritten list of digital accounts and assets should be kept in a safe place along with all of your other estate planning documents. This makes it easy for you and your family. Everyone will know the digital assets that you own, and how to access and use them for your behalf while you are alive and how to distribute them after you die. 

So, there you have it, five easy things that you can do today to change, create, or update your estate plan. Again, we know that you are not an expert when it comes to these things. We have assisted numerous clients with each of these things when it comes to their estate plan. If you have questions or concerns, or you need help, we are confident we can help you too! 

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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