Over the course of our lives, we accumulate everything from great experiences, to tangible assets such as life savings, investments, and property, to gaining wisdom from mistakes we've made. As time marches on it can be easy to lose sight of the reality of the treasures we collect. However, perhaps one of the most valuable assets we gain in life is our relationships. When our lives come to an end, we leave our loved ones with everything we have collected, which can be both good and bad. A time that seems far off, reality proves in many cases that life could end at any moment. In an effort to prepare for this stark reality, many attorneys and CPAs assist their clients in estate planning. As a testament to the relationships built over the course of our lives, it's essential to use the tools available to consolidate our tangible assets ahead of time.

One tool we've developed at Delap is an organizational document to simplify all of the clutter surrounding our tangible assets, titled Simplify Your Life. By gathering direct information and resources in finding the information listed below, you eliminate the scavenger hunt for information many families face when a loved one passes. The following categories of information you possess regarding your estate are essential to gather, and consolidate:

  • Key contacts
  • Personal information
  • Ownership
  • Tax information
  • Banking
  • Estate
  • Insurance
  • Personal & charitable trusts
  • Investments
  • Retirement
  • Credit
  • Business

This list of items often falls off the wagon in collecting important information that may significantly affect your family members in the event of your passing.

In an effort to begin the process of planning your estate, we've broken down the goals typically achieved in the process:

1. Face reality: Become prepared for whatever may happen in your life, so just in case a tragic event occurs, your family is not left without information they need regarding your estate

2. Choose who your assets will belong to: Allocate your assets while you still can, otherwise they risk being passed along to those you may not choose

3. Protect your minors: By ensuring your children or minors you're caring for have guardians if you were to pass away may be one of the most important estate planning goals to achieve

4. Avoid taxes: You have the opportunity to decrease or eliminate taxes paid on your estate with appropriate estate planning.

Listed below are steps in estate planning you can begin to follow, to ensure the above goals are met:

1. Consolidate information essential to your estate

2. Determine the worth of your estate

3. Allocate your assets to the appropriate heirs

4. Choose someone to administer your estate

5. Strategize your estate planning with a professional

Click here to download the Simplify Your Life document