Estate planning: Where to start

If you’re thinking about writing your will in North Carolina, there’s no time like the present. You might have to revise it later in life, but it’ll be easier once you’ve already assessed and valued most of your assets. Just make sure you include everything in your will; if you leave anything out, a judge will decide how to divide those assets.

Where to begin

Itemizing your assets is one of the most important parts of the estate planning process. Write down all the valuables that you own, including jewelry, art, collectibles, musical instruments, books, antiques, appliances and anything else that you want to pass down to your heirs. You’ll also have to write down major properties like houses, businesses and vehicles. If you don’t want to give your properties to a friend or family member, you could donate them to charity instead.

Once you’ve itemized your physical properties, write down financial assets like bank accounts, retirement funds, investments and insurance policies. An estate planning attorney may point out additional assets that you might not have thought about. Finally, make a list of debts and loans that you have under your name. You could use your estate to pay off your debts after your death. If you don’t make arrangements in your will, the executor of your estate must figure out how to pay off your debts.

Making sure you’ve covered everything

If you’ve accumulated a lot of assets, it can be easy to leave something out. You might forget to name a beneficiary for your savings account or include a rental property that you bought years ago. An attorney may make sure that you’ve covered everything and give suggestions for paying off your estate’s debts.