1. Identify a Trusted Advisor

Proper estate planning is not something you can handle on your own. Wills, trusts and  powers of attorney are all confirmed through a legal process. Do your research and find an attorney who is an expert in the area of estate planning.

2. Inventory Your Assets

Understand what you are leaving behind. Create a list of assets, including retirement savings, real estate holdings and additional financial assets, such as appraised jewelry, artwork and furniture. As you list an asset, identify a family member or charity you would like to receive the item.

3. Consider Health Care

Health care is a key component in estate planning and is often overlooked. A living will and a durable power of attorney are important to finalize in the event your health declines. A living will helps your family know your intentions for care, and a power of attorney identifies a member of your family who can speak on your behalf.

4. Create a Plan

Work with your trusted advisor to create a plan or procedure for your family to follow. This plan can include funeral arrangements and your intention for your assets, whether it is a brief note to your family members or to a charity explaining the intention of your donation.

5. Stay Organized 

Remember to update your will. Planning well in advance is always smart, but you must update your will as your assets and beneficiaries change. An outdated will can cause confusion for your family and may bring on legal issues.

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