8 Tips for Planning Your Estate

Patrick O’Brien

Executor.org is an innovative tool to help simplify the duties and role of an executor. The most powerful tool, however, to simplify this role is a comprehensive job by the will writer in planning his or her estate. Here are eight tips for successfully planning your estate:

1. Start Planning NOW

If you wait for the “right time” to begin the estate planning process, you will probably never begin. Because it can be a bit uncomfortable and is perceived as a difficult project, most people delay planning their estates until much later in their life than they should. Some never fully accomplish the goal, leaving a difficult and unpleasant task for their executor. With a good plan, the process is much easier than you might think, so dive in now and you will be pleased later that you did (and so will your executor).

2. Develop a Strategy

How will you go about the estate planning process? Where do you even start? Having a strategy or approach that you plan to follow can help. Executive.org offers a great solution that for most people will greatly simplify this process, and eliminate a good bit of the confusion and stress associated with it. While you may or may not choose to use our site, it is useful to choose some framework from which to approach this project.

3. Engage an Attorney

Hiring an estate attorney, also known as a probate attorney, early in the process is also an excellent choice. Find someone who specializes in estate (or probate) law. He or she will provide great counsel to you throughout this process, and lead the process of writing your will. Make sure you select a high-quality attorney for this endeavor. Talk to trusted professionals, like an accountant or financial planner you respect, or close friends about who they might suggest for the role.
Remember, your estate attorney has been through this process literally hundreds of times. Benefit from his or her experience to simplify your work. To make this process as efficient as possible, prior to meeting with your estate attorney ask what questions you’ll need to answer during the session. That way you’ll have time to think through your answers to those questions and go into the meeting prepared.

4. Understand Tax Threshholds and Tradeoffs

Developing a working understanding of taxes related to estates is also essential in this process. There are things you can do, like creating trusts, that can help you minimize the tax burden from your estate. However, for many people, the cost of creating and managing those trusts might outweigh the ultimate benefit you will garner from them. A qualified accountant can be a great resource for you in making this determination.

5. Get ALL of your Wishes on Paper

Many people have specific intentions for who will receive money, property, personal belongings, etc., from their estate. But unfortunately they do not always make these a part of their will. These wishes are often made verbally, via email, or written down on a piece of paper left in a nightstand or desk drawer. Bequests of items not specifically detailed in your will might end up not being legally binding, and can also be a source of family tension if people question the legitimacy of them. By being as detailed as possible in your will, you will simplify the process for your executor, and help maintain family harmony through what will be a very difficult process for your loved ones after you pass away.

6. Store All Relevant Information

As you will see once you engage in this process, there is a great deal of information you will want to organize and put in one place. Keeping a list of information such as the name of your attorney and accountant, assets and where they are located, usernames and passwords for online accounts, etc., is very important. Your executor will need to be able to find this information quickly in order to manage your estate properly from the very beginning.

7. Plan Your Funeral

For many people, planning your own funeral is the least pleasant part of this process. It forces you to think about your mortality, which can be uncomfortable for many people. That said, when you pass away, it is a tremendous burden for your grieving loved ones to have to sort out the many funeral arrangements that must be made in a very short period of time. Plus, they might not know your wishes. By planning your own funeral, you and your loved ones can be certain your final wishes are being met. When planning, we recommend using some type of guide, such as the one on executor.org. That way you will not miss or forget to consider any steps in the process.

8. Meet with Your Executor

A one to two-hour meeting with your executor, where you share the specifics of your plan and give your executor a copy of your will (if you are comfortable doing so), will greatly assist the executor in his or her role after your death. Many executors have full-time jobs and busy lives and they will appreciate that you simplified their job. Also, helping them understand where they can find the records you have put together will make their job dramatically easier as they will not need to be searching through old mail and emails to cobble together your financial information.

Planning your estate will take some effort and require you to make some important decisions. That said, it is an important job and one you should take on sooner rather than later. Make a commitment to complete the process in the next 30 days, and you’ll be surprised how much progress you can make, putting your mind at rest and making your executor’s role much easier to accomplish. We hope that executor.org can be an important resource for you in this process.

Executor.org can assist an executor through each step of the executor duties — and offers proven tips on how to deal successfully with all aspects of the executor role. We can help an executor understand the responsibilities and duties of the executor role at each step along the way. We’ll help you track your progress with our interactive executor checklist (within your executor plan), and you can utilize our spreadsheets to keep track of important financial details. It’s a wonderful tool to help you in your executor duties. And, since you can save your work, you can start today and just do a little at a time, as you are able to do so. It’s an interactive executor checklist — and will save time and eliminate stress from the executor role!  Click here to get started now.