There is nothing more important in your life than your loved ones. It goes without saying, therefore, that providing for them is going to be top of your agenda. This is precisely why estate planning is so crucial. Being able to choose where your assets go after you die so there is no confusion for those left behind, potentially reducing the amount of tax payable so loved ones can benefit as much as possible, and planning ahead to ensure there is a strategy in place to manage your assets should you become unable to do so, are all vital elements of estate planning. Not sure where to begin? Follow our useful estate planning checklist for the guidance you need in this vital process.
Why is estate planning important?
Without estate planning, there will be no plan in place to determine what will happen should you become ill, or pass away. A comprehensive estate plan will cover both, and will help your family navigate their way through everything smoothly, avoiding confusion and uncertainty.
Everyone needs an estate plan. Many people think that if they do not own many assets, or are still young, then estate planning is not important. But it is. Even younger people can become ill or incapacitated and unable to make essential decisions on their own.
If you fail to plan ahead and set down your wishes, how for example will you decide who should take responsibility for your children should you pass away whilst they are still young? How will you make certain your spouse is not left in debt? Or that the beneficiaries of your estate will not have to pay unnecessary tax?
Estate planning is vital if you wish to protect your family and your assets should an unfortunate situation arise.
What is estate planning?
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning involves a lot more than simply making a will. There are various estate planning tools that will help protect your family and assets, from Inheritance Tax planning to Lasting Powers of Attorney.
An estate plan will cover everything, from what you would like to happen to your assets when you pass away, to how you will ensure your loved ones are taken care of, mitigating taxes payable, appointing someone you trust to manage your finances and make important health and welfare decisions should you become unable to do so, and appointing guardians to take responsibility for your children if the worst should happen.
The following basic estate planning checklist will help you identify the most important aspects of estate planning, readying you for when you take professional advice on getting your affairs in order.
Your 5-point checklist for estate planning
Here are the key steps involved in creating an estate plan:
1. Identify your goals
The first step in any estate planning checklist is to identify what you are aiming to do.
For some, this will be ensuring loved ones receive as much of their estate as possible, with minimum tax deducted. For others, it is important to preserve the family home, so creating a strategy to cover the costs of any required long term care will be a priority.
Some people recognise the importance of preparing for their own incapacity or illness, whilst others put their younger children firmly at the forefront of their thoughts. For business owners, a succession plan will usually factor as a crucial goal.
Take your time to write down every goal that comes to mind.
2. List your assets
This is an important step in your estate planning checklist, because only by making a list of your assets, will you see precisely what you need to plan for.
It can be quite surprising for some to realise the extent of their assets. Be sure to include everything from solely and jointly owned property, to savings, investments, life insurance policies and pensions; fully owned assets (i.e. not those on hire purchase) such as vehicles, and valuables such as antiques, artworks, jewellery and tech.
An estate planning specialist will be able to advise you accordingly as to potential taxes payable on your estate, and then provide a strategy to pass on assets in the most tax efficient way possible.
It is useful at this stage to together all the supporting paperwork for your assets, including any valuations for the likes of jewellery and antiques, together with receipts for physical assets plus policies and savings statements, etc.
3. Set out who you wish to provide for
Who do you wish your estate to pass to? Who may need special financial provision? Do you wish to ensure your spouse is not left with debts to settle alone, such as a mortgage? Do you have children, or disabled dependants? Pets?
There are different ways for providing for and protecting different individuals, so set down who you wish to take care of and any special needs they may have. That way, when you visit your estate planning specialist, they will be able to formulate an appropriate strategy.
4. Outline your debts
If you are eager to ensure your loved ones are not left to deal with any debts when you die, it is important to set then all out so that your estate planner can help you formulate methods of settling them either during your lifetime, or on your death.
5. Decide whether you wish to leave a charitable legacy
If there is a charity close to your heart, you may wish to consider leaving a legacy in your will, or perhaps setting up a charitable foundation or trust.
For those who have pets, there are charities who will take care of them should they be left without an owner. Such an arrangement can be set up at any point during your lifetime.
Estate planning checklist done? What happens next?
Once you have your estate planning checklist in place, it is time to see a specialist estate planner.
An estate planner will help you create a plan, making suggestions such as taking out a life insurance policy or funeral plan to ensure loved ones are not left with debts or bills to pay when you die; making a will and appointing guardians; making lifetime gifts; arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney; working out a business succession plan and putting strategies in place to protect the family home.
Expert guidance on estate planning from your local trusted experts, Partridge Muir & Warren
At Partridge Muir & Warren we have been providing specialist estate planning advice across Surrey since 1969. Our in-house team of legal experts, financial planners and tax advisers are all ready to provide you with the comprehensive advice you need to ensure your loved ones are provided for, and your assets are protected.
To learn more about how we can assist you with fully tailored estate planning, please get in touch.