You should be confident that the assets you’ve accumulated during your lifetime will pass to chosen recipients, at your death. In order to accomplish these goals, certain elements should be included in your estate plan:
A will. If you don’t have a lawful will, you’ll die “intestate,” meaning that your assets will be divided according to state law. Almost certainly, that division won’t agree with your wishes. Further, your will should be kept current because the will that you commissioned many years ago may not be suitable for the level of wealth you’ve amassed, your present personal circumstances, and the changing legal climate.
Executors. In your will, you’ll name an executor (sometimes called an administrator or a personal representative) to oversee the handling of your estate. Make sure to that person’s consent first and provide for a backup in case your original selection becomes unable to serve.
Your executor should be someone who’s very detail-oriented because an executor will have to inventory your assets, pursue outstanding claims, pay bills, file tax returns, and so on. It helps for that person to also be local.
Beneficiary designations. Some of your assets won’t pass under your will. Retirement plans, transfer-on-death bank or brokerage accounts, and insurance policies all pass to beneficiaries you name while jointly held property goes to the surviving owner, no matter what it says in your will.
Therefore, it’s vital to review all your beneficiary designations periodically, to make sure they conform to your current wishes. A proper beneficiary designation is especially important for retirement accounts such as IRAs because savvy planning can create the opportunity for decades of tax-deferred wealth building.