Estate Planning Checklist for Busy People
Determine your current and estimated down-the-road needs including providing for retirement and the possibility of disability.
Make a list of your assets including cost basis, current fair market value and how they are owned (i.e., separate property, joint property).
List your debts -- including potential estate taxes and the assets your estate will use to pay them.
What do you wish to pass on to others? Consider the strengths and weaknesses of potential beneficiaries and their current and future needs.
Determine who would be appropriate fiduciaries -- trustees, executors, guardians for minor children, and holders of powers of attorney.
Consider the pros and cons of transferring some assets to family members or charitable organizations during your lifetime.
High-net-worth individuals (formerly known as rich people) will want to consider tax-saving techniques such as family limited partnerships, qualified personal residence trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts and life insurance trusts.
Plan for the continuation, sale or transfer of your business with minimum erosion by taxes and mismanagement.
Have an up-to-date will or living trust that carries out your wishes and minimizes administration expenses and taxes on your estate.
Review your life insurance and pension plans including beneficiary designations and payment options.
Have a current living will stating your directions about life-prolonging medical procedures if you are unable to communicate those directions. Download a living will form and instructions for your state at Choices.org
Married couples should generally plan their estates so that neither spouse will have to forfeit his or her unified gift and estate tax exemption -- currently $675,000 and rising to $1 million by 2006.
Have a current durable power of attorney for financial matters that gives another individual or trust company the power to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
Go see your lawyer. Tie it all together. Then go about enjoying your life.