The more organized you can be with your estate, the easier it will be to plan for its transfer. A large binder or online directory of files can keep everything easily within reach. Here are some of the documents you’ll want to store:
Health, long-term care, property and casualty, disability and life policies
The last three years of returns
401(k), IRA, pension and Social Security statements and correspondence
Checking, savings and credit card statements, mortgages and outstanding loan documents
Brokerage statements and Form 1099 mailings
Wills, trusts, durable power of attorney and health care proxies
Don't forget your digital presence
In the digital age, sometimes there’s no paper trail for accounts, insurance or other documentation. It’s a good idea to list out all web addresses, logins and passwords for online accounts. Or, use a password manager and keep the master password handy.
You could have multiple brokerage accounts, shopping accounts, multiple e-mail addresses where different financial information lives. Consider itemizing everything and leaving that list with your important documents. A fire-proof safe or a safe deposit box could also afford the security you desire for sensitive information.
Beneficiaries, wills and trusts are among some of the most common ways to establish clear direction for the transfer of assets upon death.
Updating beneficiaries is generally an easy process. Use milestones such as opening a new account, changing account information or welcoming a new child to the family to remind you to revisit your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries bypass probate and any wills and trusts to pass assets directly to those listed, making the transfer of assets simple.
Writing a will can be as simple as writing down how you want your assets to be transferred to loved ones or charitable organizations after your death. Without one, your estate could be handled in probate court, and your property could be distributed differently than you’d wish. It may help to get legal advice when writing a will, particularly when it comes to understanding all the rules of the estate disposition process.
Testamentary trusts are executed in the event of death and are typically used to leave assets to a beneficiary after a specified time. They’re often common ways parents can distribute their assets to children who are too young to take control of an estate. A trustee can be appointed to control the estate until the minor comes of age.
It's your choice
Choosing a beneficiary is the easiest way to pass assets after death, but wills and trusts are often more comprehensive. Contact a legal professional to see which one is right for you.
An advanced health care directive, or living will, is an important part of estate planning, as it guides your loved ones and medical professionals in making decisions around your care in the event of incapacitation.
A living will usually provides specific directives about the course of treatment that is to be followed by health care providers and caregivers. In some cases a living will may forbid the use of various kinds of medical treatment. Advance directives are often available through hospitals or with the help of a legal professional.
Want a proxy?
The United States also recognizes a health care proxy, who can make decisions on your behalf. This can be an alternative to a health care directive.
It can be tough to relinquish control of your investments and estate to another person as you lose the ability to make decisions on your own behalf. Luckily, it’s easy to customize the amount of power you give to a friend, relative or professional.
If you’re the beneficiary of an estate, you may want to create a plan for these new assets once you take control. Investing these assets is a good strategy to make the most of an estate and Janus Henderson has several options. To begin evaluating your options, visit Investing Basics.