Why do middle income earners find it so hard to talk about money? Poor people will tell you they have none. Wealthy people will tell you their net worth to the closest million or billion. Yet, ask a middle income earner to sit down and take stock of his or her assets and the room goes silent. It’s like asking many to give up state secrets under the threat of torture rather than execute an estate plan.
The reality is that we’re all going to die and whether it is 10 days away or 10 years away, you should know what you own down to your last ten cents. Most estate attorneys require an inventory of your assets to better guide and assist you in planning ahead. There is no cookie-cutter approach to drafting a will, trust or any other estate document so don’t call a law firm to request a “simple will.” By working with a competent attorney to map out a custom estate plan, you will be informed and well-situated to deal with the future.
In gearing up for the asset inventory, here are a few tips to help ease the process:
1. Check your bank/brokerage accounts on a weekly basis. Not only is this good for safety in this climate of identity theft, but it gives you a good estimate of the value of your cash/securities.
2. Check the value of your real property/co-op apartment on a periodic basis. Just because you paid $150,000 for your first apartment three short years ago does not mean that it is still worth that much. In fact, it might be worth less. Websites like Trulia and Zillow will display recent market sales in your area simply by typing in your street address.
3. Valuable collections should be appraised periodically. Even if you don’t insure the artwork, coin collection, jewelry or other valuables, a periodic appraisal is worth the cost to place a value on your assets. Maybe it’s time to cash in on a hot market or realize your cherished but valueless LP collection is sadly taking up dusty storage space now.
4. Money is just a thing. It comes, it goes. We have it, we don’t. Yet, it’s the one thing many of us feel so uneasy about, the one thing which can make life easy or hard.
Without a will, the courts will decide who gets your estate no matter what it’s worth, So your Last Will and Testament should be the first and not the last thing you do when planning your future.