Estate Plan: Steps to Organize Yours

Last Updated Feb 7, 2011 1:36 PM EST

If you want to be successful in reaching your financial goals, then read about these actions to improve your financial organization.

Also, to make real and lasting progress on your financial goals, you need to organize your financial accounts.

Now all this organization is a good thing, but don't forget to put your estate plan in order too.

Organize Your Estate
Most folks do not have the basic estate planning documents which include a Will, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney. These documents state what happens to your assets, who will be the guardians of minor children, who will make health care decisions and manage your finances when you are unable to do so.

Steps to accomplish this goal can include purchasing a copy of Quickens Willmaker or Plan Your Estate from Nolo.com. These programs and books can walk you through making a will and provisions you need to consider for your situation. If you need some expert help using a will making computer program, then consider an online legal document service such a Legal Zoom.

Next, create legal will documents using one of these services. This can be really helpful in raising the issues you need to consider in drawing up a will and help you decide your options.

Once you've done this homework, seek the advice of an attorney who can help you review your documents, make suggestions and finalize and execute your will and other documents correctly. How much you'll pay will depend on how simple or complicated your estate plan is. A simple will and related documents may cost as little as $350 to $500, however, you can easily spend $1000, or more when trust provisions are involved.

Also, think about this: if something were to happen to you, would your spouse or family know exactly what financial accounts and documents you have, where they are located and how to access them? How would they know where to locate the different web sites and passwords you use to access information online? For this reason, I suggest putting together a personal document list that includes not only the information on your investment and retirement accounts, but also pertinent information on your property (deed to home, title to cars, boats, etc), insurance policies, legal agreements, etc. A personal document list should include the names and phone numbers for guardians, executors, trustees, lawyers, accountants, investment advisors, etc and the location and contents of any safe deposit boxes.

  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS Moneywatch.com and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.