Key Information Needed to
Create an Estate Plan

This article is designed to get you started with the data that is needed to create an estate plan.

Now, you might be thinking, "What's an estate plan?" It’s like a roadmap for you and your stuff (your "estate") after you're no longer around or able to make decisions for yourself. It tells people “who gets what” and when. It also tells “who does what” and when.Last, it tells “what gets done” and when.

Sounds serious, right? But don't worry, I'm here to guide you through it.

First things first, let’s talk about what you need to start making your estate plan.

  1. List of Assets: Your assets are things you own like your house, car, bank accounts, even your favorite baseball card collection (or any collections with value). Write them all down with details like their approximate value and where they are located. For our office, we only need general values to get started, so account numbers and account balances to the penny are not necessary to begin. Of course, the more information you provide, then better it will help when your plan needs to be executed.
  2. List of Debts: Now, let’s not forget about debts. These are things like mortgages, car loans, or credit card bills. Knowing what you owe is just as important as knowing what you own. Again, account numbers and balances are not necessary to get started.
  3. Names of Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are the lucky folks who will get your stuff when you’re gone. They could be your family members, friends, or even organizations you care about. Write down their full names. If you have a current address and phone number, that could help us connect people who may not have a close relationship with each other.
  4. Name of Executor:In Florida, we use the term “personal representative.” The personal representative is like the team captain. They make sure your estate plan is carried out the way you want. This person should be someone you trust. The job usually takes 4-10 months to finish everything. Think about backup people in case your first choice is unable to serve.
  5. Guardianship Decisions: If you have young kids, choosing who will take care of them is important. This person is called a guardian.
  6. Healthcare Wishes: If something happens and you can’t make decisions about your health, who do you want to make those choices? Write down this person’s name. Also, think about what you would want them to do. COVID-19 really brought medical decision-making values under scrutiny. Think about backup people in case your first choice is unable to serve.
  7. Final Wishes: If your mind goes, who do you want to take care of your finances? Where do you want to receive care? Consider whether you want your remains to be cremated or embalmed and buried. What do you want done with cremated ashes? Where do you want to get buried? How do your remains to be treated? Do you have a family or religious
  8. Your Wishes: This is the most important part. It’s your stuff, your plan. Think about what you want to happen after you’re gone. Who gets the house? Who gets the baseball cards? How are things divided? What happens if the persons you name predecease you? It’s all up to you!

Now, you might be thinking, "That's a lot!" And you're right. But remember, you don't have to do it all at once. You can start with one thing and then do the next. You can also start with a basic plan, and “graduate” when you have more time.

Consider maintaining your personal records in a way moving forward that will make organization easier for you and those who are left to handle things when you are unable. If you are unable to collect this data, imagine the challenge that your family will have after you are gone.

Also, it's okay to ask for help. A trusted friend, family member, or a lawyer can be there to guide you. Most adult children would love it if their parents asked them to help them gather this information. You might also enjoy the connection.

When you work with our firm, we have an online form that will guide this process and preserve this information in an organized fashion. When you’re done with it, we can print it out for your records.

Creating an estate plan is like planting a tree. It might seem tough at first, but with time and care, it grows strong, providing shade and comfort for those you love. So, grab a piece of paper, a pen, and start planning. Your future self (and your family) will thank you!

Remember, this is just the beginning. Making a good estate plan takes time and thought. It also takes maintenance and attention. But with this list, you're already off to a great start. Happy planning!