Estate Planning in Iowa in 6 Steps
Estate Planning in Iowa in 6 Steps
Making an estate plan may not be something you've thought about before you've accumulated assets and have a responsibility to care for your family. You may have a vague plan of what would happen to all of your property and financial assets if you passed away, but how do you ensure your plan comes to pass? And how do you execute it?
Your assets can either go through probate, a legal process through the court, or you can have your assets pass outside of probate. If your assets pass outside of probate, they will go directly to your beneficiaries. Let's take a look at the six steps you can take to plan your estate with an estate planning attorney, as legal matters tend to be simpler and quicker to handle when you have a professional at your side.
1. Designate a Health Care Agent
You may want to consider designating a health care agent, or a decision maker of your choosing, as part of your estate planning. You may not have thought about this before, but if you become incapacitated, you'll want to have someone you trust designated to help make healthcare decisions. This decision can be a challenge if you haven't decided what you wish your health care agent to do if you're on life support.
Think ahead concerning this type of situation because once you become incapacitated you may not be able to make your own medical decisions or speak for yourself. If you don't formally designate a person, a number of healthcare decisions, including the decision on what to do if you're on life support, will go to your nearest of kin or your spouse.
You'll need to fill out a Health Care Power of Attorney form, which will designate whoever you choose to make medical decisions that you may not be able to make for yourself.
2. Designate a Financial Agent
Your financial agent, another decision maker of your choosing, will function in a similar way to your health care agent but for your financial decisions. If you cannot make financial decisions because of an illness or physical incapability, your financial agent will act as your representative.
A financial agent has few limitations when it comes to making decisions as your representative. However, you may make a plan allowing your agent to exercise specific, limited financial authority over your assets. Limitations on a financial agent’s authority can include instructions on how to deal with different financial scenarios that may arise.
3. Make a List of Your Assets
Keep in mind that when making a list of your assets, you don't necessarily need to distribute every piece of property you own to your beneficiaries. What's essential is making a list that distributes your larger assets, such as retirement accounts, cars, and property. This list will then function as the list of your current assets. Having this list finished when you speak to an attorney will make the process of planning your estate quicker.
4. Designate Your Beneficiaries
When you create an estate plan, you'll need to let your attorney know precisely who you want to receive your assets upon your death, what each beneficiary should receive, and how much of each asset should be distributed to each beneficiary. Having a list of this information when you meet with your attorney will be helpful in terms of expediency. However, you don't need to have a complete asset list when you visit with your attorney, especially if you're looking to draft an estate plan or want to split everything evenly between your beneficiaries.
It can be helpful to name beneficiaries for your retirement plan and bank accounts so the funds in the accounts will be immediately available to your beneficiaries upon your death, without going through the probate process. You can also register your brokerage accounts, bonds, and stocks to pass directly to your beneficiaries upon your death.
If any of your beneficiaries are minors, you should name an adult to manage any of the assets they will receive.
5. Decide How Your Estate Will Transfer
Consider how you would like your estate to transfer with your estate planning or probate attorney. They can explain all of your options to you and help you execute your estate plan. You might choose to transfer your assets via a will, or you might choose to transfer them via a revocable living trust.
- A will is a document that states how you want to divide your estate. An attorney can help you create a will compliant with the laws of your home state, which will help prove the will is authentic when it is offered to the probate court. The probate process takes time, meaning that assets passing to your beneficiaries through probate are not immediately available.
- A revocable testamentary trust puts all of your assets into a trust. From this trust, your assets will be transferred directly to your beneficiaries upon your death. This type of trust does not have to go through the probate process.
6. Store Your Documents
Keeping your documents safe is paramount to protecting your estate plan. It's important to make multiple physical copies of any necessary documents and store them in securely. It may help if you also consider making digital copies and secure them on a trusted device. Make sure to keep your original copies safe and away from the elements.
Storing your documents safely is essential. If you pass away and no one can find your will or trust, the court will have to send your assets through probate and refer to the state's intestacy laws to disperse them.
Contact Whitfield & Eddy Law
Estate planning on your own can be a challenge, so let us help you make it easy. Here at Whitfield & Eddy, we pride ourselves on our ability to craft practical and effective solutions to your legal challenges. We have the experience, knowledge, and steady work ethic to take a proactive approach that can result in positive outcomes for you.
When you work with us, you can enjoy the following benefits:
- Confidence in your choice of attorney and law firm
- Peace of mind that we will handle your matter professionally
- Regular updates in a language you can understand
- Value in services
- Prompt replies
If you want to know more about us, check out our website. There, you'll find information about our attorneys, the practices and industries we serve, and information about our firm, including awards and recognition and the different facets of our business approach. Reach out to us for more information about our services or estate planning.