We came across some interesting statistics recently about estate planning that are worth sharing. According to a survey by caring.com, younger adults (under 35) are now more likely than middle-aged adults to have an estate planning document.

Compare that to the fact that the number of 35-54 year-olds with a will has decreased 39% over the past two year. Similarly, the number of adults 55 and older with a will has fallen 27%. 

Why Estate Planning is Important

There are a number of reasons people put off estate planning. They may not want to think about aging and getting ill or dying. Some people don’t feel they have enough assets to make it worthwhile. Estate planning can also be confusing. Do you have to do it?

Technically, no. However, you should do it. Without a written plan in place, anyone can claim your assets. Your family could end up in court, or end up paying too much estate tax. Everything you’ve worked for could simply dissolve. 

Regardless of your marital status, wealth level, or perceived need, you can start planning for the future in just a few simple steps. At minimum, everyone should make a plan for who will receive their assets and what their healthcare wishes are. Of course, this list is just a beginning. Meeting with an accountant and a lawyer will help you cover any areas of need for your personal estate plan. 

Estate Planning Checklist

  1. Make an itemized list of things you own.

    1. Electronics
    2. Art, Antiques
    3. Vehicles (include bicycles, boats, etc.)
    4. Jewelry
    5. Heirlooms
    6. Collectibles
  2. Make a list of other assets, including any account numbers and contact information.

    1. Investment accounts: 401(k) plans, IRAs, brokerage accounts
    2. Bank accounts
    3. Insurance policies: life, homeowners, auto, disability, and health insurance
  3. Consider how you want to handle healthcare decisions. 

    1. Appoint a health care proxy/power of attorney

    2. Create a living will
    3. Decide who will care for your children and/or pets, if needed
  4. Decide what will happen with your business, if you have one. 

    1. Name a successor if the business will continue

    2. Create a plan for selling or shutting down your business if it won’t continue
    3. Know your state laws regarding the division of business assets
    4. Make a list of any business loans or debts to be paid

How an Accountant Can Help with Estate Planning

An accountant can help you manage your assets now, as well as help you plan for the future. A good accountant will be up to date on the ever-changing estate tax laws and advise you about updates to make to your plans. 

For small business owners, an accountant can also help you determine what your best options are for handing the reins of your business over to a family member, partner, or other individual or entity. Don’t leave things to chance! If you’re getting started with the estate planning process and have questions, please contact us. We’d be glad to answer any questions you may have.

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