By no means is this list exhaustive, but these items should be on everyone’s estate planning to do list.

Life Insurance

The life insurance most Americans carry is woefully inadequate, especially if they have young children or a dependent spouse. Quite often, the breadwinner in a family carries life insurance with a death benefit equal to only one year’s income. What your family needs is a death benefit that will generate income equal to your annual income, which typically is between ten and twenty times your annual income.

Succession Planning

Too many businesses are lost to unexpected death of the business owner. Succession planning is, no doubt, a challenge. More often than not, the business owner is the heart and soul of a small business. But leaving succession planning unaddressed is not an option. Do you have a child who is active in the business and who could take over? Could your employees take over and buy out your surviving family members? Can the business be sold without tremendous value being lost? Even if there are no “good” options, it’s important to identify the “least bad” option and implement it, as the financial stakes are enormous.

Guardianship Nomination

Couples usually think of where the money will go when they consider the need to execute Wills.  But there’s a more urgent matter addressed in your Will: Who will raise your children? In legal terms, that translates into who will serve as guardian for your children and conservator of their estates? These matters are handled in a Will, and should never be left unaddressed. And they require careful consideration. For example, it may seem sensible to name your 65 year-old parent as guardian of your three-year old child, but doing so means your 80 year old parent could be faced with the task of raising a potentially rebellious teenager.

Structuring Your Children’s Inheritance

Deciding how an estate will be shared among children and others typically is a straightforward decision. Indeed, the intestacy laws of most states usually will vest the estate in those whom the decedent most likely would have named in a Will. But intestacy laws, simple wills and canned living trusts utterly fail to address the critical question of that age at which your children will take control of their inheritance and who will manage the money for them until they reach that age. So, unless you’re comfortable with your eighteen year old child getting a six or seven figure check to spend as he wishes, some planning here is critical.

Asset Protection Planning For Your Children

In today’s litigious society, many people consider their own asset protection planning. Planning to protect your assets from adverse claimants, however, can be complex, costly and often only marginally effective. But protecting your children’s inheritance through basic estate planning is straightforward and cost effective. If your children follow your plan, the likelihood that claimants could reach their inheritance will be remote. And this planning also will protect them from divorcing spouses and estate taxes. This basic planning on your part provides benefits to your children that no amount of planning on their part could achieve.