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Learn... Plan... Protect Your Estate

Steps to Build Plan
  Step 1 - Organize documents
  Step 2 - Get educated
  Step 3 - Inventory
  Step 4 - Determine goals
  Step 5 - Develop plan
  Step 6 - Review plan
  Step 7 - Take action
  Step 8 - Get help
Estate Plan Items
  Death Will
  Power of Attorney
  Health Care Directive
  Living Will
  Charitable Giving
  Asset Distribution
  Burial Instructions
Organize your documents

The first step in this process of developing an estate plan is to locate and organize all the relevant documents. All key financial and estate documents should be together in one place. There are items that you may need easy access to, and these belong at home. However, you could have a fire and lose all these documents, so other items (or copies of all of them) are best stored in a safe-deposit box. A few items belong in both places, and some even belong with your attorney.

For those items that you keep at home, secure them all in one location. You can organize them in folders, envelopes, whatever you choose, but it's important that they all be in one place. If they aren't all together, right now would be a great time to do it!

Second, you need to make sure that someone you trust also knows where your important documents are. Should you become injured or worse, someone else needs to know where all of your important papers are, and this is especially true for your estate documents. Having them all together in one place will make it that much easier should someone else need to locate your policies. This person should also know the location of your safe-deposit box and key.

The following table lists the items that should be stored in a safe-deposit box, at home, or both.

Safe-Deposit Box
At Home
Deeds and titles Insurance policies
Marriage license and divorce decrees Passport
Birth certificates Tax returns (past 7 years)
Home inventory Wills and trusts
Social Security cards Power of attorney
Stock certificates Medical directives
Information on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, certificates of deposit and credit cards (with account numbers and branch locations) Information on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, certificates of deposit and credit cards (with account numbers and branch locations)
  Funeral and burial instructions

Your attorney should have copies of your wills, medical directives, power of attorney, burial instructions and any trusts.

Once you have located and organized your documents, it would help if you made a detailed list of this information for your executor. Once this is complete, it is time to learn about all the aspects of estate planning.

Step Two - Get educated

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