Putting your Estate in Order

The estate planning process is a dynamic one, and many factors change from year to year. Below is a checklist of things to consider when thinking of your plan.

Take inventory of your property and assets

Inventory your personal assets, including an approximate current value and purchase price for each asset, where each asset is located (by state), and who has ownership (in a single name, jointly owned with right of survivorship etc.). Be sure to include all:

  • Tangible personal property such as jewelry, collections, automobiles, boats, airplanes, artwork, equipment and animals.

  • Intangible personal property such as stock, bonds, life insurance, health insurance, property insurance, retirement plans and intellectual property (patents, copyrights, royalties).
  • Real estate including primary residence, vacation home, farm, and commercial or investment property.

Take inventory of your priorities and goals

Inventory your personal priorities and goals of what you want your estate plan to help you accomplish, such as:

  • Providing sufficient income for your lifetime, including during retirement.
  • Providing income or assistance to loved ones (e.g., helping with educational expenses).
  • Allowing sufficient assets to provide for health care needs for you and/or loved ones.
  • Providing charitable gifts to assist your favorite philanthropic passions, such as leaving a legacy by giving to Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Seek professional (certified) advisors who are local and trustworthy

Interview and select your estate planning team, including professional advisors who are experts in the estate and financial planning field. Be sure to consider:

  • Legal counsel licensed in your state, as only qualified attorneys should draft legal documents.
  • Accountants familiar with your tax return information that can also assist with tax planning considerations.
  • Certified financial planners and life insurance professionals who understand your current financial investments and insurance needs in light of your short- and long-term plans.
  • A representative of your favorite charities, including MTSO. We stand ready to offer helpful ideas to fulfill your philanthropic interests in support of our important educational mission.

Review your complete estate plan with your team of advisors

Share your personal inventory of assets (and important information about the assets) as well as your inventory of your personal priorities and goals with your selected estate planning team of professional advisors for their recommendations. Be sure to:

  • Review all recommendations and ask for explanations.
  • Ask questions to resolve any discrepancies between advisor recommendations.
  • Consider any important new developments relative to new laws, investment opportunities, and current or anticipated needs.

When planning your estate, your attorney and other advisors may suggest that you consider the creation and use of specific legal documents. Please remember that only a licensed and qualified attorney should draft documents for your approval and signature. Some of the most helpful legal documents to consider include:

Will. A will is legal document that must comply with the law of your primary residence. If you move, you should consider a new will drafted by an attorney in your new state. Wills are revocable and can be amended at any time. A will provides for the use and distribution of your assets at your death to loved ones and/or favorite charitable causes such as MTSO. A judge oversees the disposition of your estate assets in the course of a legal procedure called probate.

Trust. There are many different types of trusts to consider. The type of trust or trusts that may be best for you and your goals should be determined in consultation with your attorney. For example, some trusts are revocable and can be changed at any time, while other trusts are irrevocable. Some trusts offer tax-saving advantages. One popular type of trust is a "revocable living trust," which allows you to own assets during your lifetime and provide for the disposition of these assets to loved ones and/or favorite charitable causes such as MTSO.

Power of attorney. In many states, a power of attorney (POA) can be very specific to allow another person to handle a specific legal transaction on your behalf. A POA can also be very broad to give another person the authority to handle all your financial and/or health care affairs when necessary.

Living will or life-prolonging agreement. In many states, you may express your wish that extraordinary procedures not be used to extend your life in a living will. In the alternative, you may request such procedures in a life-prolonging agreement. Many state laws are very specific about the wording of these documents. A copy should be shared with your physician for inclusion in your medical records.

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