Among the many gifts you can provide to your loved ones at the end of life is an organized estate. A well-organized estate will help reduce the stress on your family on the occasion of your passing.

Begin the process by determining the content, size, and location of all your assets. Make sure all your investment accounts, insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and annuity contracts have the beneficiaries you want those assets transferred to listed in the account documents. Re-title your cars, boats, trailers, snowmobiles, and anything else that gets a little green title document from the State of Minnesota in the name of the person you want to have that property upon your death. Strongly consider giving personal property you will never need, much less use, again to a friend or relative who can use the items now rather than after you pass away.

Examine the contents of your house and ask yourself “why am I keeping this or that item?” It you don’t have a reason, the reason will eventually be so your children, grandchildren, or perhaps paid strangers can fill one or more dumpsters placed next to the steps outside your kitchen door. Begin decluttering several years before you go to assisted living or pass away. Periodic deposits to your garbage and recycling bins is better than having your estate pay hundreds of dollars for one or more dumpsters.

While you are decluttering, it is also time to arrange for an experienced attorney to review or draft your estate planning documents. Consider having deeds to homes, lake cabins, investment properties, or recreational land redrafted to include the names of persons you wish to have those properties upon your death. This deed drafting is very inexpensive. Perhaps a Revocable Trust is advisable. Certainly, at minimum, a Will to express your estate distribution wishes is in order. In preparation for that initial meeting, think seriously about your spouse and each of your children, grandchildren, or other heirs. What are their special needs? Which ones have trouble managing money? Are there any problems with addiction? Does anyone have a disability that is costly to control, will shorten a working career, or just make life difficult? Do you have a special friend who has stood loyally beside you for decades who could use some financial help at the end of life? Who among your friends and relatives is bright, disciplined, organized and would be willing to help your attorney collect and transfer your assets as your personal representative? Finally, is there a religious entity, charitable organization or civic group that has figured prominently in your life whom you would like to recognize with an end of life gift?

Each person’s estate is unique and a short article on a topic of this complexity can never hope to address all the issues involved For example, no information discussing gift and estate taxes is included in this article. Hopefully, however, the content of this article will help get you prepared for a productive first meeting with an attorney to discuss the disposition of your estate.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice in the context of a specific case. Caldecott & Forro, P.L.C provides free initial consultations to clients and potential clients on a variety of litigation, business, family, and estate law matters.