“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” (Haruki Murakami)

Most of us do not want to think about dying. However, it is an inevitable part of our existence. And preparing for the inevitable is an intelligent and caring thing to do for the loved ones around us. Preparing a Will and/or Powers of Attorney is an involved process, but here we will explain some basics of what you will need to gather for your estate planning professional.

First, you will want to gather financial information. This includes cash, bank accounts (checking, savings and money market), stocks & bonds, retirement plans (IRAs, 401(k)s, pensions) and real estate (either your private residence or investment properties), just to name a few. You will also want to consider life insurance, annuities and estates or trusts that you currently are a part of.

Second, you will need to consider your liabilities. You will need a list of your creditors, the amount owed to each of them and what it covers.

Next, you will want to decide who will receive your assets once you have passed. Will this be one individual or split between two or more? Do you have specific gifts you wish to give to any particular individuals or non-profit organizations? Would you like to pass any part of your estate in trust? This can apply to individuals under a certain age or individuals who may need help managing their finances.

In addition, if your issue (children, grandchildren, etc.) should pass before you do, are there alternate beneficiaries you want to receive your assets? Do you have adopted children or grandchildren and should they be treated the same as biological relatives?

You will also need to decide who will you entrust to administer your estate once you have passed. Depending on gender, this is known as your Executor or Executrix. You can designate one person or multiple people. Also, do you have specific instructions as to funeral, burial and/or anatomical bequests?

Finally, you may need to consider the tax ramifications of gifts to your beneficiaries. There are specific tax attorneys and advisors who can assist with this part of the estate planning process.

When it comes to Powers of Attorney, these documents cover your health and personal care decisions as well as your finances in the event of your disability or incapacity to handle your own personal and financial affairs. Some people choose the same Executor/Executrix handling their Will to also be the Agent for their Powers of Attorney. Others choose a different individual that they trust to handle their affairs when they are still living.

If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss the basics of estate planning or any other family law or estate administration issue, please contact me.