When you reach your mid-50s, that creeping thought will start to enter your mind: what happens after I pass away? However, according to a study done by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, 45% of people 55 and older don’t have a will. Furthermore, 18% have only two estate planning documents: a will and a power of attorney. So, while this middle-aged population is worried about the legacy they may (or may not) leave…they haven’t done a whole lot to acquiesce that worry.

This study surveyed 3,000 adults aged 55 and older, exploring their thoughts on end-of-life planning. While the topic is undoubtedly a difficult and uncomfortable one, 9 in 10 respondents said they were open to discussing their end-of-life preferences with their loved ones. This survey demonstrated the need for those who are closer to retirement to start implementing an estate planning action plan.

While it doesn’t sound fun to plan for your death, here are 5 tips to add to your estate planning bucket list that you may not have thought about:

Draft a will. This may sound obvious, but this gets overlooked when someone doesn’t think they have any assets to protect or distribute. If you die without a will, a judge decides who gets your assets and estates. If you have minor children, the judge decides who the children will stay with.

Get help from professionals. You’ll need to get a lawyer to help draft your will and advise you on your estates. You’ll also need to assign an executor who will carry out the wishes of your will. You may need a solicitor who can advise you on lawful decisions in the event you are incapacitated. If you have any chronic medical issues now, you’ll l want to ask your doctor about your condition and the long-term outlook, so you can best plan for your future.

Make a list of necessary documents. You will want to document everything, from your health, assets, bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, your home and other properties, your car…and any decisions you’ve already made. Leave a list of information that your executor will need in order to settle your estate, including all passwords for online accounts. Remember to let someone know where that list is!

Keep your documents updated as your personal situation changes. Having children, changes in property ownership, and relationship status are all factors in your estate planning, so don’t forget to update your documents as these situations change. We recommend an annual review to ensure you’re completely up to date and 100% protected.

Don’t forget your digital assets. With most of our identify and interactions stored online these days, remember to give access to your online financial accounts and social media profiles after your death, with clear directives on what you’d like done with your social media accounts.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the idea of estate planning? You’re not alone. Let us help you walk through it. We approach estate planning with compassion and empathy—we know it’s an uncomfortable topic to discuss, and want to make your estate planning process as seamless and minimally stressful as possible.

To help you “dip your toe” in the estate planning waters, we host free estate planning workshops at our Cleveland area law firm, ‘How to Protect Your Assets: How to Protect Your Stuff in 3 Easy Steps.’ Contact us for information about the next workshop!

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