As you approach retirement, having an estate plan in place is critical. Dangers of not having an estate plan include unclear direction if you are medically incapacitated, your family losing their inheritance to the probate process, and inadvertently leaving someone out of an inheritance.
There are a few things that go into creating an estate plan, but one of the most important is cataloging all of your assets. Whether you’re using an estate attorney or preparing documents online yourself, you’ll need a list of assets to include in your plan. You might think you don’t have any assets, but most people have property of some kind. Or, you might be on the other end of the spectrum and think this sounds like way too big of a project to start. Either way, following the outline below will help you get started on listing your assets. If you have an extensive and/or complicated list of assets, you may find it most helpful to use a software program to ensure you have all the required information for each asset.
The easiest way to think of your assets is breaking them down into tangible and intangible items. Tangible assets may include:
- Real Estate: Make a list of the address of properties you own (or survey name and abstract number), purchase date, cost, approximate value, names in which the property(ies) is/are held, and holder and amount of lien/mortgage outstanding if applicable.
- Cars, motorcycles, boats: For each vehicle, list the make and model, vehicle identification number (VIN), the names in which the vehicle(s) are titled, the value, and the amount and holder of the loan if applicable.
- Collectibles: This could include art, coins, stamps, antiques and memorabilia. Include a description of the item(s) and the value. If you have appraisals, be sure to have the hard copy and an electronic copy stored with your asset list.
- Other personal property: You’ll want to include other items such as cameras, musical instruments, furs, china/silverware. As with collectibles, include the item description, value, and appraisal if available.
Intangible assets include:
- Bank accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs): For each bank account you have, it’s best to keep recent statements on hand since they will have all the necessary information- institution, account holder names, account type. If statements are not available, be sure to note the financial institution, account number, the type of account (checking, savings, or other), account holders and the balance as of what date.
- Securities (stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, etc.): As with bank accounts, current statements are the best, but if you don’t have them, record the same account information.
- Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): Besides the statement information, it will be important to record who the beneficiary is (your spouse, etc.) for these accounts. The beneficiary is the person who will receive the funds from this account should you pass away.
- Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans/Profit Sharing Plans: Again, statements will be the most comprehensive. You will also need to record whether or not there are alternate payee benefits, and who the beneficiary is.
- Life Insurance: A current statement will have the pertinent information. Be sure to record the type of life insurance you have (variable, term, whole life, universal, group term, etc.), cash value and face value if applicable, the name held in (yours, spouse, trust, etc.), and beneficiary(ies).
- Business interests: If you have ownership in any businesses, record the company name, address and telephone number, names held in, form of ownership (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.), net value of the company, ownership interest percentage, and your value in the business.
Similarly, if there are any other liabilities, loans, or debts we will want to take an inventory of those amounts. Your assets and liabilities will allow you to calculate the net estate value which you can then use with your estate attorney to establish your estate plan.
Do I Need Term Life Insurance?
“Life insurance” is an interesting term. It may conjure up visions of a stodgy salesperson in a suit going door to door selling some product only your grandparents need. Or maybe a lab technician coming to your house to draw your parents’ blood so they could get life insurance. No? Maybe that’s just me. But in both of those cases, you may be thinking “life insurance” isn’t relevant to you.
Retirement. If you’re just starting out, it’s like a whole lifetime away. Literally. So you can put off saving for it, right? But what if I told you a retirement savings habit of $100 a month now could mean tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars more for retirement?