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11 Things to do in Texas Before You Die

Unfortunately this article is not about skydiving, visiting the Alamo, or riding a bull for the first time.  Check out the Tim McGraw song or the Morgan Freeman movie if that’s what you were looking for.  No, this is a more practical look at preparing for the inevitable.  It’s easy to want to avoid discussing it, but it’s just as much a part of life as dream vacations and bull riding.  Why wouldn’t you plan for it just like your retirement, your career, or other significant life event?  Granted, it’s not nearly as fun to consider, but planning ahead eases the burden on your loved ones and provides peace of mind for your whole family.  So let’s take the bull by the horns, and you’ll have a rock solid estate plan in no time.

  1. Identify your stuff

If you haven’t seen George Carlin talk about “stuff,” look it up on YouTube.  It’s worth a watch, if not for the comedy, at least for a great segue to the first item on our list.  We all have stuff, and the first step to creating a great estate plan is to identify all of yours.  If you consult with an attorney, they’ll likely give you an inventory sheet to complete.  This certainly makes the task easier, but you can do it yourself too.  Just take a walk around your home and make a list of all your valuable items.  These can include jewelry, collectibles, art, antiques, computers, TVs, power tools, furniture, etc.

  1. Inventory your intangible assets

Once you’re finished documenting your tangible assets, move on to the non-physical assets.  This will include your brokerage accounts, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and other insurance policies for health, homeowners, auto, long-term care, and disability.  And don’t forget mineral interests, royalties, intellectual property, and digital assets.

While making this list, be sure to include account numbers, the location of the documents, and any contacts associated with these assets.  This will help your executor or trustee get their arms around your estate when the time comes.

  1. Make a list of your debts

Next, you should list out your debts.  Hopefully you don’t have many, but common ones include mortgages, auto loans, home equity loans and lines of credit, and credit card accounts.  As with your intangible assets, make sure to include account numbers, security information, any signed agreements, and contact information for the debtholder.

  1. Organize your organizations

If you’re a member of any organizations like veterans groups, professional or fraternal associations, college alumni associations, or charitable organizations, compile a list of them, along with key membership and contact information.  Not only does membership to many such organizations include free life insurance benefits that your beneficiaries should know about, but you may also want them to be contacted when you pass.

  1. Consult with your financial team

You don’t need to be a millionaire to benefit from a team of financial advisors.  In fact you probably already have these people in your life but don’t think of them as a team.  These advisors will include your accountant or CPA, your insurance agent, your attorney, and your investment advisor.  Most of these professionals will work on an as-needed or commission basis, so you won’t be charged for simple advice related to creating an estate plan.  Their guidance can be invaluable, especially if they help you avoid the pitfalls that might derail your plan.

  1. Review your beneficiaries

Many of your most valuable assets are ones that won’t even go through the probate process, so it’s vital to your estate plan that the distribution of these non-probate assets is decided ahead of time.  This is accomplished by choosing beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, annuities, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts that allow “transfer on death” designations.  It’s also a great idea to name backup beneficiaries in case your first choice is unavailable to claim the asset.

If you can’t remember who you’ve named as your beneficiaries, or if you’ve divorced or remarried since naming them, it’s a good time to review those policies and accounts to make sure your designations mesh with your overall estate plan.

  1. Draft a will or living trust

No matter whether you choose to have an attorney prepare your estate plan or you try an online service, everyone over the age of 18 that has assets should have a will or living trust.  Without at least one of these documents, your grieving loved ones will have to deal with much more than losing you.  The added expense and burden can be overwhelming – and it doesn’t have to be that way.  It is very simple and relatively inexpensive to create an estate plan, regardless of the value of your assets.

And these documents can accomplish much more than just distributing your assets.  With both a will and living trust, you can choose a guardian for your children, provide for relatives with special needs, leave money to take care of your beloved pets, donate to your favorite charities, and so much more.

  1. Don’t forget the other documents

As important as your will or living trust are documents that protect you while you’re still alive in the event of your incapacity.  A financial and medical power of attorney, medical directive, and HIPAA authorization can be lifesavers if an unexpected event leaves you unable to make decisions on your own.  Without these documents, your loved ones will be nearly helpless to act on your behalf.

Even if you decide you don’t need a will, everyone over age 18 should have these documents.  They are especially relevant if your children are young adults of college age or unmarried.  Since they’re no longer minors, as parents you don’t have the same authority you had when they were younger.  If they’re in an accident and incapacitated, without these documents you don’t automatically have a right to make decisions for them.

  1. Choose your fiduciaries wisely

Just like hiring the right candidate for a job, you should be careful who you entrust with the administration of your estate.  Don’t assume that your spouse or brother or uncle is the best choice.  Choose a trustee with financial prowess and an executor with strong organizational skills.  Choose a guardian who’s trustworthy and shares the same moral values as you.  Each of these important players in your estate plan should be responsible, mentally stable, and able to make difficult decisions if needed.  And make sure they know you’ve chosen them for these roles.  As a backup, you should choose a series of successor fiduciaries should your primary choice be unavailable or unable to serve.

  1. Keep your estate plan in a safe place

Once you’ve gotten this far, compile all the above-mentioned lists and documents into a binder or other organizational tool and store them in a secure place, such as a fire-proof safe or file cabinet.  Then tell your estate administrator, executor, trustee, and loved ones where these vital documents are and how to access them when needed.

  1. Regularly review your documents

As mentioned earlier, major life events can throw wrenches in the works of the best estate plans, so it’s critical that you periodically review your documents to make sure they still reflect your wishes.  Things happen.  People move in and out of our lives.  It’s highly probable that you’ll need to revise your plan as the years go by.  Don’t hesitate to do so.  The consequences of not updating your plan can be devastating.


The takeaway – don’t wait to establish your estate plan.  Almost nothing positive comes from inaction.  So attack this project like you would a 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye.  After all, we’re in Texas, right?  The peace of mind you’ll have when you’re sitting on a South Padre Island beach, toes in the sand, sipping an umbrella drink knowing that your loved ones are secure is priceless.  So what are you waiting for?


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This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be legal, financial, or tax advice. The information provided herein was accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change without notice. We recommend that you consult an estate planning attorney or a tax advisor to discuss how current laws apply to your situation.

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