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Estate Planning Basics: Write it Down!

Make a list of all of your stated beneficiaries and review that list on a regular basis.

| BY Kent McDill

Certainly, forethought is one of the keys to proper and sufficient estate planning basics, but another key factor is getting everything you have in mind down on paper (or some other form of permanent readable form).

Documentation, and updating said documentation, are keys to making sure your estate is handled in the way you want. It is best to go over every step of the post-life process with a professional advisor or lawyer to make sure you have covered all of the bases.

Even if you have a full set of documents prepared already, it is necessary to make sure no recent events, such as a marriage, a divorce, a new child, or other considerations have caused your documentation to be dated or not in line with your wishes.

Here are some steps to take in a long list of estate planning basics:

Update Your Will – Depending on the list of descendants you are dealing with and the size of your estate, a regular consultation on the specifics of your will must be a part of your financial routine. This is especially true if your estate grows significantly over time, or if additional sources of income are added to the estate that are not expressly distributed in an earlier form of the will. The goal is to avoid as much post-life arguing and debate as possible.

A Living Will – This is another matter that not only can provoke arguments, it can provoke arguments for a long period of time. This document states what is to be done if you are terminally ill or unable to speak for yourself. It can also state who has the final say in terms of treatment.

Medical Power of Attorney – Another precaution against terminal illness, coma or mental instability. It is another way to state who has decision-making responsibility in case you are unable to speak for yourself.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney – For financial matters, this allows someone to carry on with your property matters without formal judicial approval.

Disposition of Your Remains – This is a way to avoid any conflict in terms with funeral personnel regarding final interment. When cremation is involved but not specifically stated in documentation, there can be disagreements among family that eventually can require a court order. A document can avoid that argument.

Beneficiary Designations – This is a big step and requires determining all of the property you own that needs to have a beneficiary clearly stated. It might be necessary at some point to update beneficiary designations for insurance or retirement plans. If you state one beneficiary for an insurance policy in your will, but the rider on the policy states a different beneficiary, the courts may end up getting involved.

Guardians – This is for anyone with minor children who will need future care. It is sometimes best to designate one person to serve as guardian for minor children while another handles family finances, if you think the two can work together.

Setting up a Trust – Depending on the size of your estate, you may want to speak to your estate attorney about the wisdom of setting up trusts for the pre-determined and timely distribution of assets.

These estate planning basics will not only make life better for your family upon your passing, it will actually make your present time with family and friends better because it covers many concerns that will no longer be a concern.



About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.