No one wants to think about death, especially not their own. However, taking a few measures now can significantly alleviate the financial and emotional burden for your loved ones once you are no longer around.
To help you get started, an estate planning attorney from McCarthy & Akers, PLC in Winchester, Virginia, has put together this essential list of seven things you can do.
1. Gather Important Documents
Your loved ones will need access to numerous documents after you die. Gathering all these items and storing them in a secure location can help your loved ones locate them when they need to.
We recommend compiling the following documents:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Property deeds
- Vehicle titles
- Contact information for doctors, lawyers, insurance brokers, and other professionals you work with
- Passwords for smartphones, laptops, tablets, and important accounts
Gathering these documents can also give you quick access to them during your estate planning process.
2. Itemize Your Assets
When you create an estate plan, you must list who will receive your assets and property. Creating an inventory of your assets is the first step in assigning them to loved ones.
We recommend making a list to include any:
- Real estate
You do not necessarily need to record the value of these items. Simply listing them out can help determine who will receive each item after your death.
3. List Your Debts
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you also need to list your debts. Your estate administrator will need to use the money from your estate to pay any remaining debts after your death. Compiling these debts in one location can streamline their process and ensure they do not miss any financial obligations.
Make sure your list includes all your:
- Credit cards
- Home equity lines of credit
- Medical bills
4. Create a Will
If you already have a will, you should review it and ensure the information is still accurate. If you do not have a will, you should create one as soon as possible.
Your will can provide detailed information about how your estate administrator should distribute your assets after your death. This document can appoint a legal guardian for any minor children or pets in your care.
While you can write a will on your own, we recommend enlisting an estate planning lawyer to assist you. Your attorney can help ensure that the will is legally binding, then aid your family members in enforcing the will after your death.
5. Create an Advance Healthcare Directive
An advance healthcare directive is a living will that enables people to express their preferences for end-of-life medical care if they cannot do so for themselves. This living will provides a set of instructions to specify the use or non-use of medical procedures and treatments that would artificially prolong your life.
6. Appoint an Estate Administrator
An estate administrator is responsible for distributing your property and paying your debts after you die. If you do not name an estate administrator, the court will determine who will fulfill this role — typically a spouse or next of kin.
Before you name an estate administrator, you should talk to the person you have in mind and ensure they are willing to fulfill this responsibility. We recommend naming a backup person if the original estate administrator cannot perform the necessary duties.
7. Establish a Power of Attorney
You should also establish a power of attorney (POA) as part of your estate planning process. A POA is a document that allows someone to act on your behalf in specific situations. For example, if you experience an illness and cannot voice your decisions about your healthcare, your agent or attorney-in-fact can decide on your behalf. Your POA can also have the authority to pay your bills and manage your real estate while you are incapacitated.
Establishing a POA is a good idea, even if you never need to use this document. You never know what situations may arise in your lifetime, and preparing for the worst can be highly beneficial down the line.
McCarthy & Akers: Your Experienced Virginia Estate Planning Attorneys
After reading this article, there’s no need to search online for an "estate planning lawyer near me." Instead, contact the experienced estate planning lawyers at McCarthy & Akers. We will give you the legal advice and guidance you need and help develop the right estate plan to give you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Call our team at (540) 722-2181 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation. We invite you to come in and develop a plan of action today and let us go to work for you. We have offices in Strasburg, Woodstock, Front Royal, Winchester, Manassas, Warrenton, and Culpeper.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
McCarthy & Akers, PLC
302 W Boscawen St.
Winchester, VA 22601