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Top 3 estate planning items for your to-do list

When it comes to facing your own mortality, you can do many things to ensure that after your passing, your affairs remain in order and your executor can divvy up your estate according to your wishes.

The list of helpful estate planning hints can be long. If you are not sure where to begin, here are three of the top things that you should be doing:

1. Calculate your assets and deduct your debt

When calculating your assets, it is important to take stock of everything that is in your possession. This includes physical assets such as jewelry, cash on hand and any household items that carry a value over $100.

It also includes non-physical assets such as life insurance policies, 401K plans, bank accounts, etc- and any sort of charitable organizations that you are involved in or a member of. Some of these organizations may offer life insurance policies for your beneficiaries.

Also, calculate any credit card or other debt that you may owe and deduct it from your assets. It can help you get a better picture of the estate you are leaving your beneficiaries.

2. Select an administrator for your will and estate

The person that you will have in charge must be one that is trustworthy, loyal and has your best interests at heart.

Many will choose an attorney to handle all of these issues, as they are neutral and have no personal feelings invested in the case, but many people also pick close family friends and acquaintances to handle their affairs.

3. Draw up a will and update your insurance policies

Having a will in place is a strategic and solid way to assure that your wishes are followed in regards to your estate distribution after your passing.

It is important to look over your will and your life insurance policies at least every couple of years. If there are changes in your household such as adoptions, divorce, marriage or the birth of a child, owning or selling a business, etc., you will want to have that inform up to date.

Also, make sure that the beneficiary designations in your life insurance and other assets that transfer outside of the probate process are correct, and that whomever you have named as the executor of your estate will still be able to perform those duties.

Lastly, you will want to visit an estate attorney to advise you on anything that you might have missed, as well as helping to ensure that all of your documentation is current and on record.

In short, while no one likes to think about his or her death in advance, which can seem morbid, it is a reality that you have to faced in the long run. Overall, it is better to be proactive and have a plan in place, which will streamline the process of finances, life insurance and beneficiaries and make it easier on your loved ones.

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