This is the first of two blogs (today and tomorrow) on this important topic. I hope you find it helpful.
When a loved one dies you have to remember IRS deadlines, Social Security Administration requirements, compliance with state laws, and dealing with other grieving family members. There’s also the chance you might have some relatives who feel entitled to more or different assets.
To make this time easier for all involved, it’s critical to plan some of the issues related to death far in advance with some contemplation to make everything go as smoothly as possible when a loved one passes away.
While you should work with your own estate planning attorney, a recent MarketWatch article, titled “9 steps to getting your estate plan in order,” offers some ideas to help you start the process. You start by examining what needs to be in place prior to death.
Although it’s not easy, discuss the issue of death with your family and determine what each person's end of life wishes are. Experts say that it’s sometimes more comfortable to do this when someone outside the family has died. You want to build a foundation for a smooth transitional experience to make things be as painless and well-organized as you can for your family—as well as for yourself.
Get to know the inheritance laws in your state, and don't assume that, if you have a will, your wishes are set in stone. Knowledge of how property passes on death in the state where you live is imperative. The laws governing property division can get tricky, so consult with an estate attorney. Select an estate planning attorney who’s experienced in estate, probate, and tax planning, and head to the meeting prepared with your questions.
Your attorney will ask you questions about your real property, personal property, and all other assets, guardianship decisions, medical preferences, end of life bequests, and more. You’ll talk about a will, the possible need for a trust, and deciding on an executor of your estate.
Remember that all of your life insurance, annuities, 401(k), 403b, and IRAs are passed to your named beneficiaries, not through your will in probate. It’s important that your beneficiary designations are current and accurate. Speak with the administrators of the investments and get a copy of the beneficiary assignments currently on file—if you need to update or change your beneficiaries, do it right away! Once you’ve submitted the changes, be sure to request confirmation of the change and keep it with your records. Remember that the release of money to the designated beneficiary is contingent on producing an accurate and legible death certificate.
You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.
Reference: MarketWatch (November 3, 2014) “9 steps to getting your estate plan in order”