Now that the holidays have wound down and life is returning to normal, it’s time to get down to the business of those New Year’s resolutions.  Most years it’s the same: have a better diet, exercise more, save more money and finally do your estate and financial planning.  Getting your estate and financial plan in order is one New Year’s resolution we can help you accomplish: Here are our top tips to help get your planning done in 2014:

1. Get organized.  A great way to start is to create a list of all of your assets.  At a minimum, you should list all financial institutions (and locations if necessary) including banks, safety deposit boxes, insurance companies, retirement account holders and investment account holders.  Include account numbers for each and other related information.  It’s a good idea to check if there is a beneficiary listed on the account (assets like life insurance, retirement plans, etc.).  When you create your estate plan, your attorney will want this information.  And, the person(s) you have listed might surprise you!  Another important list to create is a list of your digital accounts.  Your list should include the provider, username and passwords.  This makes it much easier for someone to handle your affairs.

2.  Create your estate plan if you haven’t already. By creating an estate plan, you are taking an affirmative step towards protecting yourself and your family during some of life’s difficult situations.  Parents with young children, this is an absolute must – do it ASAP.  In Arizona, the only place you can name a guardian for minor children is a Last Will & Testament.  For people without young children, an estate plan is just as critical.  For blended families, an estate plan is an absolute must – without one, the law probably doesn’t work how you would want it to.

When you create your estate plan, you’ll not only state your wishes regarding the distribution of your estate, but you will also make some important decisions about what should happen to YOU in the event of a healthcare emergency, incapacity or terminal illness.  This includes not only stating your healthcare choices and appointing someone to make your healthcare decisions, but also naming someone who will manage your assets in the event you’re unable to do so yourself.  This is a huge responsibility, and you definitely want to be involved in the choosing of this person.  Learn more about Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives.

3.  Store your estate plan and asset list in a safe place.  While a safe deposit box seems like a natural solution it poses some inherent problems.  If someone needs to access your safe deposit box because you are unable or have passed, the authority to allow them to do so is in your safe deposit box.  A shelf or drawer at home may be the best route, but make sure your loved ones know where to find it.  We also offer our clients secure 24/7 online access to their estate planning documents.

4.  Review and update your existing estate plan.  Life happens after we create our estate plans.  Babies are born, loved ones get married or divorced, and other loved ones pass.  We recommend meeting with your estate and financial professionals a minimum of every two years to ensure that your plan is up to date and reflects your current wishes.  If you have a Revocable Living Trust, this is a great time to review your assets with your team and make sure everything is properly funded into your trust.

5.  Have the conversation with your loved ones. An estate plan is critical for everyone.  When we talk to our clients, one of their biggest reasons for planning is to make everything easy for their loved ones in the event of their incapacity or passing.  Without an estate plan, you could be doing just the opposite – creating a burden on your loved ones.  It’s important to have the estate planning conversation with your loved ones so you can ensure that your loved ones are protected when life inevitably happens.

At Powers & Neal, we know how important and often delicate the estate and financial planning conversation is.  Arizona attorney has helped many clients protect themselves and their loved ones, all while writing their unique story.  Call us today at (480) 699-7992 to start your plan.