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Practical estate planning tips

If you were to die tomorrow, would your spouse or loved ones know where to find your will, safe deposit box key, or the password to access your online accounts? For those left behind, finding all of these items can be difficult if there is not a list to guide them. The estate inventory list can be as simple or detailed as you like. The estate inventory list can be written in any format, such as a letter or a spreadsheet.

However, every estate inventory list should contain the following: For bank accounts: account numbers, locations, and phone numbers if possible; Brokerage accounts: account numbers, locations, name of representative, access codes, and phone number; Life insurance and annuity policies: policy numbers, location; location of the safe deposit box key; emergency contact telephone numbers; IRAs and other retirement plan documents; and funeral policies.

Another important issue to consider is your will. If you don’t leave a will, you are essentially gambling with your estate. The purpose of a will is to direct how you want your assets distributed and appoint a legal guardian for your minor children. For example, if you wanted to leave $1,000 to your favorite charity, without a will, that money could go to someone else completely unintended. Without a will, the courts may determine who will get custody of your children.

Check the beneficiary designations on any IRA or other retirement accounts you own. First, do you have a primary and contingent beneficiary listed? By listing a primary and contingent beneficiary, you are directing where you want the balance of these accounts to go — it could be an individual, a charity, or even your estate. The reason a contingent beneficiary should be listed is in case the primary beneficiary is no longer alive, or disclaims the inheritance. If the beneficiary designations are left blank, your retirement accounts will be paid to your Estate.

Applying these tips will make it easier for your spouse or loved ones to handle the affairs of your estate. Most importantly, you will have peace-of-mind now for the future of those you care about.

 
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