Get up to date

The estate, gift and tax laws have changed quite a bit in recent years. Make sure you know what's different, and how it might affect your current plan.


Line up a backup

Identify a person that you trust, who has the time, temperament and knowledge to make decisions about your affairs after your death. And make sure they understand the responsibility you're giving them.


Think about the future of your family

If you have kids, when do you want them to be able to access your assets? Are there any strings you'd like to attach? Is your family set up to manage the tax consequences or understand the liabilities that may be attached to your wealth? Consider how you'd like to include their current or future spouses in your planning, and whether you want to add any protections in case they get divorced.


Consider the difficult questions

Who will raise your children if you pass away? What will happen to your wealth if the entire family dies in a common disaster? These are difficult questions, but the consequences of not having answers for them can be serious.


Make sure you can cover the costs

Figure out what your total estate tax liability will be when you pass and ensure that
you've got a plan to cover it — and any other debts that might be left behind — either with cash or through a financing strategy.


Protect your assets

Are you currently using insurance to protect your family? Are you aware of any risks that are complicated enough to require specific asset ownership or trust structuring? Protecting your wealth requires a plan that reflects your current circumstances. Your protection plan must be able to change as you add new assets, take on more debt, settle your obligations or experience a change in your personal financial situation.


Give efficiently

Determine how you can best donate to the charities you care about in the most tax- efficient and organized manner.


Leave a trail

Document where your assets are, what accounts you hold, who your advisors are, and any usernames, passwords or security-question answers your family might need to access your records. Don't forget to include and keep track of things like loan documentation, safe deposit boxes and important documents, such as passports and wills.


Prepare your family for their inheritance

Take the time to talk to your children about how you'd like them to use their inheritance, and make sure they understand your hopes and intentions with regard to their lifestyle, education, work ethic and values.


Stay on top of your plan

There are sure to be further changes — both in your life, in the laws and in the economy — that may require you to revisit and revise your plan. Keeping an eye on these changes and how they affect your plan is key to ensuring that you'll ultimately realize your goals.