Did you know that a 2022 survey indicated that 67% of Americans do not have an estate plan? We commend you if you have prepared for the future by implementing an estate plan. But don’t stop there. Creating an estate plan is not a one-time task. To ensure your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone, there may be additional steps you need to take.
Get peace of mind now and save your loved ones trouble later by taking these steps to ensure that your wishes are followed after you’re gone. Continue reading to learn which seven things you may need to include as part of your VA estate planning.
At PJI Law, PLC, our estate planning lawyer team is here to answer any questions you may have about the estate planning process. Contact us at (703) 865-6100 to receive personalized service and attention.
VA Estate Planning Essential Documents
Before we discuss seven things you may need to include as part of your VA estate planning process, we want to ensure that you have included the following four essential documents in your existing estate plan:
1. Gather and Store Important Documents
To ensure that your loved ones have access to the documents they need after you pass away, gathering and storing them in a safe, secure location is critical. We also encourage you to create digital copies of these documents. Include documents such as your:
- Will and other estate planning documents
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Tax returns
- Property deeds
- Vehicle titles
- Contact information for professionals that you work with, such as financial advisors, tax accountants, and attorneys
- Names of friends and relatives you want to be notified of your passing
- Passwords for your electronic devices and important online accounts
After organizing and storing these documents, provide a detailed list of them and their location (both physical and digital) to your executor or another trusted individual, such as your estate planning attorney. This will make it easier for them to locate the documents when needed.
2. Update Beneficiary Designations
Updating beneficiary designations is another step to take as part of your VA estate planning. This includes updating the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets. Making these updates ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
3. Make a List of Your Possessions Inside and Outside Your Home
Taking stock of your possessions inside and outside your home and writing them down ensures that nothing is forgotten or overlooked. An itemized list is essential if you want to pass on certain items to specific family members or friends and ensure they are designated in your will or trust so that your wishes are followed.
Having an inventory of your possessions in one place can help you determine the total value of your estate, ensuring that your estate plan is properly structured to minimize taxes and maximize asset distribution.
When creating your list, consider all your possessions, such as heirlooms, furniture, electronics, jewelry, collectibles, artwork, lawn equipment, power tools, and cars. Remember to include any personal property stored at a separate location, like a safe deposit box at a bank, storage unit, or someone else’s home.
We also suggest taking pictures of your possessions and creating a digital album to include with your other important documents.
4. Create a List of All Your Debts
Creating a list of your debts ensures your family members and loved ones are not burdened with dealing with unknown financial obligations after you pass away. By creating a comprehensive list of all outstanding debts, your family members know who and what needs to be paid.
Include the account number, contact information, balance due, and payment date. Having a list of your debts can also help your family avoid any confusion or disputes with creditors about your debts that may arise after your death.
5. Make Arrangements for Your Pets
Making arrangements for your beloved pet is a part of estate planning that can often be overlooked. Designate someone you can trust to ensure your pet will have a safe and loving home to provide them with the care they need once you are gone. It is best to name primary and secondary guardians who have agreed to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet if something happens to you.
In addition, create a financial plan for your pet’s well-being, such as setting aside funds for veterinary care, food, toys, bedding, and other related items. Making these preparations now will give you peace of mind knowing someone you trust will be there to care for your beloved pet once you’re gone.
6. Create a Plan for Your Digital Assets
With so much of our lives stored online, you must plan for what happens to your digital assets in the event of death or incapacitation.
Those special photos, memorable emails, and cryptocurrency could be forever lost if you don’t have a plan for how to transfer them to your loved ones upon your death. Digital assets include online bank accounts, investments, social media accounts, emails, photographs, and more.
With a written plan, your family will know about these digital assets and have your written authorization to access them. Having a plan also allows you to protect your privacy, as you can decide who can access your accounts and their information.
7. Prepare a Funeral and Burial Plan
Making funeral arrangements is another overlooked step in VA estate planning. A well-thought-out plan should ensure that your wishes are respected in the event of your death and will make this difficult time much easier for your loved ones.
We suggest including the following steps as part of your funeral and burial plan:
- Plan Your Service in Advance. Include where and how you wish to be buried, what kind of ceremony or tribute you want or don’t want, and any other meaningful details such as readings, prayers, flowers, etc.
- Document and Share your Wishes. Don’t assume talking about your funeral and burial wishes with your family is all you need to do. Document and share your wishes in writing and include the name of the funeral home or cremation provider where you made arrangements, so your family knows who to contact when the time comes.
- Pre-Pay Your Funeral Plan. Lock in funeral costs with pre-payment to ensure that these expenses have already been taken care of whenever it’s time.
PJI Law, PLC: Your Northern Virginia “Estate Planning Attorneys Near Me”
By following the steps above and including them as part of your VA estate planning, you can ensure that all your wishes are carried out after you’re gone and save your loved ones a lot of trouble. If you need assistance getting started or have questions about any part of the process, please don’t hesitate to call us.
There’s no need to search online for “estate planning attorneys near me.” At PJI Law, PLC, each client receives our complete dedication, personal attention, and courteous, white-glove service.
Call our office at (703) 865-6100, or complete our online form to schedule your consultation with our Fairfax, Virginia, estate planning legal team. We provide a full range of estate planning services to protect your family and your legacy by ensuring the seamless transfer of your assets.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.