My editor wasn't too psyched when I told her that I wanted to use Elizabeth Taylor's death as touch-point on wills and other estate documents. I countered that I use whatever I can to nudge people into doing this stuff!
Yes, I know that you SWORE that you would get it done, but here's another gentle reminder of why its so important: if you do nothing, your STATE makes these important decisions for you. Anyone who has stood in line at the DMV knows what a scary concept that is! I discussed estate planning basics with WCBS this morning:
Here's your quick estate to-do list:
- Hire a lawyer and complete a will; guardianship instructions (if you have kids); a durable power of attorney; and a health care proxy. You can use a software program like Quicken WillMaker, though I much prefer working with a trust and estate attorney for this very important process.
- Consider establishing a revocable trust if your total estate is greater than $5 million, which is the new limit for 2011 and 2012. This will shelter your unified tax credit against federal Estate and Gift taxes. Regardless of the size of your estate, a revocable trust may be advisable if you wish to exert greater control over the disposition of your assets. Revocable trust assets are not subject to probate.
- Don't forget to check whether your specific state imposes an estate or inheritance tax.
- Consider putting life insurance into an irrevocable life insurance trust if your estate (including insurance proceeds) is greater than $5 million.
- Put all documents in a safe place and provide copies to your executor/trustee.