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What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

Everybody knows what a “bucket list” is, right?

It’s a list (duh) of things you want to do before you die (i.e. “kick the bucket”). I won’t get into the weeds about the concept, so if you want to learn more about bucket lists and also ugly-cry through two boxes of Kleenex, watch the 2007 film The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

But back to the blog.

Just as you and Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a bucket list for life, you should also have a bucket list for estate planning. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to arrange my affairs before I die?

Estate planning is about more than just legal documents. A good plan means accounting for your assets and providing the information, documents, and knowledge necessary to ensure a smooth transfer of those assets to the people you want to have them.

To help you create your own estate planning bucket list, here are 10 tips you can use to organize your estate before you die:

1. Get a Will or Trust.

Of course the first item on the bucket list is to create an actual estate plan. I’m an estate planning attorney writing on an estate planning blog. What did you expect?

Formal estate planning documents such as a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust are crucial to make the administration of your estate as easy as possible. Without them, your estate could be tied up in messy probate — in some cases for years.

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on life and to commit yourself to improvement in the year to come. (And to create some awesome estate planning New Year’s resolutions!)

We recently wrote about the importance of using this time to review your estate plan. But estate planning is a big and often complicated topic. To help you think about estate planning and the issues you may face in the future, here are our posts from 2018 that readers found the most useful:

1. What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Wills and Trusts are two of the most common (and most well-known) estate planning documents. But what are the differences between them? What are their relative advantages and disadvantages? In our most popular post of the year, we explain the differences (and similarities) between a last will and testament and a living trust.

2. 4 Tips to Identify Undue Influence

In Oklahoma, undue influence consists of taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind or body or the use of authority to procure an unfair advantage over someone. This post explains how undue influence can occur in estate planning and how you can identify and avoid it.

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

There’s nothing quite like the new year to make you think of fresh possibilities and new beginnings.

There’s also nothing quite like way too much turkey, wine, and football over the holidays to make you realize that you should maybe consider some lifestyle changes.

You have probably already started on your list of new year’s resolutions for 2019: read more, get a gym membership (and actually use it this time), spend more time with family, etc. And those are great resolutions. “New year, new me” and all that jazz.

But there is one more goal you should add to your list: organize your estate plan.

While most resolutions are about helping your self, an estate plan is about helping your loved ones. To make it easier for you to set your affairs in order, we created this handy list of 11 Estate Planning Resolutions for 2019:

1. Execute a Trust and/or a Will

You, like a majority of Americans, may not have a living trust or a last will and testament. You may not even know what those documents are. Which one is better? Which one is right for you? What are the differences between a will and a trust?

Both a trust and a will control what happens to your estate — your property, your “stuff” — after your death. However, there is one huge difference between the two: a trust avoids probate, while a will does not.

Yes, even if you have a will, your estate must still go through probate after your death.

Remember that there are two main sides to estate planning: (1) What happens to your “stuff” when you die and (2) who takes care of your self when you become incapacitated. You can solve the first part of that equation in 2019 by creating a trust or a will.

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Prepare yourself to be shocked: 2018 is almost over.

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to a few weeks of Christmas carols, football, family, bowl games, presents, and (best of all) football.

This is also a great time to look back on the year that was:

Perhaps you started a new job or got a raise; maybe you made an addition (by birth or marriage) or subtraction (by death or divorce) to the family; or maybe you purchased a house, received a windfall inheritance, or started a new business.

Life can change a lot in a year.

But do those life changes mean you need to make changes to your estate plan?

To help you answer that question, we have put together a 10-question checklist to review your estate plan.

How You Can Talk About Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving

How You Can Talk About Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving

There’s nothing quite like family gatherings to remind us that life is very, very, VERY short.

Sometimes, these gatherings can help you remember how much you love your family or convince you to leave them a little something in your estate plan.

Other times, they remind you that there are some family members that annoy you to your core, like, for instance, little Kevin who made a huge mess at the dinner table last Christmas and had to sleep on the hide-a-bed in the attic. You decide to write Kevin out of your will ASAP.

Like I said, there’s nothing quite like family gatherings…

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, holidays might be the only time each year that you and your family all come together. And I suggest you use that time to talk about what happens when you die. Talk about your estate plan.

But how does that talk come up organically? How can you casually segue from Uncle Bob’s bad joke to the contents of your living trust or your advance directive? It’s not an easy task.

Here are a few simple ways you can work estate planning into your Thanksgiving festivities.

5 Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Couples

5 Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Couples

Like it or not, marriage is a business proposition.

"But isn't it also about love?" Yes, yes. Love and feelings and all that stuff. But marriage can also have a huge financial impact on a family.

Marriage (or, rather, not being married) can have an equally huge impact on an estate plan.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of adults in cohabiting (unmarried) relationships relationships is up 29% since 2007. That's about 18 million adults, roughly half of which are younger than 35.

With this rising trend of cohabitation among Millennials, it is important — perhaps more now than ever — to understand the estate planning implications for unmarried couples.

Do unmarried couples need an estate plan?

Remember that there are two sides of estate planning: What happens to your STUFF when you die and who takes care of your SELF when you become incapacitated. 

Those goals do not change when you get married, so an estate plan for an unmarried couple usually looks about the same as an estate plan for a married couple. It is just much more important that an unmarried couple has an estate plan in the first place.

Married With Children: Estate Planning for Young Families

Married With Children: Estate Planning for Young Families

When you have a kid, everything else usually takes a back seat. There's often no time for fun things like hobbies or other activities and definitely no time for un-fun things estate planning.

But what would happen to your child if you and your spouse suddenly died or became incapacitated? Who will take care of your child's medical needs and daily care? Who will manage your assets until your child reaches adulthood?

A well-crafted estate plan can address these issues and more, and ensure that your kids are taken care of after you are gone.

No Kids? Why You Still Need an Estate Plan

No Kids? Why You Still Need an Estate Plan

Many young couples think that, if they don't have kids, they don't need an estate plan. After all, if you die, everything is going to your spouse anyway, right? Not always.

What happens if we don't have an estate plan?

If you are married with no kids, and you do not have an estate plan or prenuptial agreement providing otherwise, the law in Oklahoma says that everything you have goes to your spouse. However, as we have discussed before, your spouse must still go through probate before he or she can actually get your assets. This is the case even if you have a Last Will and Testament providing that your spouse gets everything.

Single and Ready to Mingle With Estate Planning

Single and Ready to Mingle With Estate Planning

I'm single with no kids. Do I need an estate plan?

This scenario describes a lot of Millennials, and the short answer to the question is yes. Having an estate plan is a good idea no matter your family situation. Remember that there are two sides of estate planning: What happens to your STUFF when you die and who takes care of your SELF when you become incapacitated. Both aspects of estate planning matter, whether you are married with a large family or single with no kids.

Estate Planning for Millennials

Estate Planning for Millennials

With hitting the work force and starting families (not to mention destroying entire industries), Millennials have a lot on their minds. Estate planning may not even be on your radar. Besides, isn't estate planning just for older, richer folks? Do you even need an estate plan when you're young and poor?

Do Millennials Need an Estate Plan?

The short answer: estate planning is for everyone, including Millennials. But what should a Millennial's estate plan look like? What documents should you have? What things do you need to consider before deciding on an estate plan?