Take the following steps to help your family should you die or become incapacitated.
√ Have you made a financial power of attorney? With a durable power of attorney for finances, you can give a trusted person broad authority to handle all of your finances for an indefinite period of time if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs. The person you name to handle your finances is called your agent or attorney-in-fact (but doesn't have to be an attorney).
√ Do you have young children?You should name either a property guardian, custodian, or trustee to manage the money and property you leave to your minor children. (This can be the same person as the personal guardian you name in your will).
√ Do you need life insurance?If you have young children or own a house, or you may owe significant debts or estate taxes when you die, life insurance may be a good idea.
√ Have you filed a beneficiary form for your bank accounts and retirement plans? Naming a beneficiary for these types of accounts makes the account automatically "payable on death" to your beneficiary and allows the funds to skip the probate process. Likewise, in almost all states, you can register your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts to transfer to your beneficiary upon your death.
√ Have you considered the possibility that your heirs may have to pay estate taxes? If your assets are currently worth over $1.5 million and you are married or have a domestic partner, you might want to consider an AB trust.
√ Do you own a business or part of a business? If you're the sole owner of a business, you should have a succession plan. If you own a business with others, you should have a buy-sell agreement.
√ Have you considered funeral or cremation arrangements? Rather than a funeral prepayment plan, which may be unreliable, you can set up a Totten trust with your bank and deposit funds into it to pay for your funeral and final arrangements.
√ Have you stored your important information in a place where your attorney-in-fact or your executor can find it? Your attorney-in-fact and/or your executor (the person you choose in your will to administer your property after you die) may need access to the following documents:
- insurance policies
- real estate deeds
- certificates for stocks, bonds, annuities
- information on bank accounts, mutual funds, and safe deposit boxes
- information on retirement plans, 401(k) accounts, or IRAs
- information on debts: credit cards, mortgages and loans, utilities, and unpaid taxes
- information on Totten trusts or funeral prepayment plans, and any final arrangements instructions you have made.