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The Three P's of Estate Planning
1 | PEOPLE
Identifying the important individuals in your life is a crucial first step in the planning process. Reflect on yourself, your spouse (if applicable), children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and other relatives who hold significance. Additionally, consider organizations, charities, universities, or churches that hold special meaning to you. Even beloved pets can be included. Create a list and make notes to recognize the impact these people have had on your life.
2 | PROPERTY
Take inventory of your assets, focusing on their general nature rather than specific details such as insurance policy numbers or exact values. Make a comprehensive list of assets you own or control, including cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, and other investments. Consider their approximate value in thousands of dollars and the manner of ownership, whether solely in your name, jointly with others, or through trusts or alternative arrangements. Don't overlook assets like life insurance (the death benefit), business interests, or anticipated inheritances.
3 | PLANNING
Once you have identified the important individuals in your life and assessed your assets, it's time to develop plans for their care and distribution in the event of incapacity or death. Consider designating individuals who would make decisions on your behalf if you became unable to do so. Determine if the same person should handle financial matters and personal/healthcare decisions. Plan for the guardianship of minor children and contemplate how you wish to distribute your assets among heirs. Explore options to avoid probate expenses and complexities, minimize estate taxes, maximize charitable bequests, provide for individuals with special needs, or establish oversight for beneficiaries who may require external guidance.
These initial considerations are vital in the planning process, far outweighing the immediate search for legal documents.