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What are some useful estate planning tips?

Perhaps the most important tip in response to the question posed in the title of this post is: Create one. It is unfortunate, but too many people make the mistake of thinking they don't need an estate plan.

Maybe it's because they don't think they have assets of a kind that anyone would call an estate. Some people may procrastinate planning because they associate it with the inevitability of death and don't want to think about that. Maybe they fear the cost of the process.

All those perceptions can be easily and rationally countered.

  1. Volume of assets is not the proper gauge. Even if all you have is a cherished Facebook account, bike, car or pet, it is valued by you and planning in relation to it is merited.
  2. Death is not the only event in which an estate plan has application. Trusts are tools that can provide a structure managing assets for yourself and your loved ones while everyone is alive.
  3. What your plan might cost is something you cannot know until you scope out all the possibilities. What you can be sure of is that the government will get more of whatever you leave if you don't have a plan in place.

Let's assume you have taken the leap and have a plan. What are some tips for making sure it remains viable? Here are just a few.

  • Regularly revisit the plan: Fidelity.com suggests that many people do this annually, or even quarterly. You might not fit Fidelity's demographic, but updating your plan is still wise, maybe on a schedule of every three to five years. Set it up so your smartphone reminds you of the task. At the very least, an update is called for after major life events, such as marriage or a birth.
  • Don't forget to track your passwords: In the vein of smartphone aids, remember how prevalent passwords are today. Nearly everything requires one. Certainly, important things like bank and retirement accounts need such security; as does your Social Security account. But so do your social media accounts. Fail to include a means by which an executor can locate and apply your passwords could result in unnecessary issues or losses.

Maybe the best tip on estate planning is that, regardless of what you think you are worth, don't underestimate the value that loved ones have of you.

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