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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Dotseth

Making the Most of One Hour: Simple Steps for Effective Estate Planning

woman in office at desk

In the busy hustle of everyday life, it's easy to neglect estate planning. However, contrary to popular belief, you don't need endless hours to secure your future and protect your assets. With one hour of focused attention, you can take significant steps towards ensuring your estate is in order. Let's explore what you can do in this short amount of time to streamline your estate planning process.

Why Estate Planning Matters

Estate planning involves more than just drafting a will—it encompasses various legal aspects, including preparing for potential incapacity, naming guardians for dependents, and minimizing taxes. By addressing these aspects proactively, you can avoid potential conflicts among your loved ones and guarantee that your wishes are fulfilled.

The One-Hour Challenge: A Step-by-Step Guide

The first step in effective estate planning is to gather all your important documents in one place. Take the initial 15 minutes to locate and organize documents such as your will, life insurance policies, mortgage statement if you have one, and financial account information. Move quickly through this step. Don't get bogged down reading everything you find. Find what you have fast, stack things up. Or save what you find in one desktop folder if you find items on your computer.

For the next 15 minutes, create a comprehensive list of your assets and debts. The top ten assets and the top ten debts. Don't worry about the exact amounts -- it's ok to estimate for now. This includes real estate, investments, retirement accounts, and outstanding loans, even credit cards. Having a clear overview of your financial situation written out will help your beneficiaries.

Spend the third 15 minutes designating beneficiaries for your assets and naming an executor for your estate. Later on but soon after this exercise, make sure to update beneficiary designations on accounts such as IRAs and life insurance policies. You may want to do an overall "beneficiary" assessment here and decide if you need to contact banks and retirement account holders. HOT TIP: If you formally and legally designate a beneficiary within the records of your account holder, that bank or account holder distributes your account accordingly, no matter if your estate goes to probate or not.

(If your schedule permits and this will be beyond the one hour challenge, consider setting up a trust to protect your house and avoid the probate process for your home. Trusts offer flexibility and privacy in estate distribution, making them a valuable tool in ensuring your assets are managed according to your wishes. 95% of people do not set up a trust and it's always sad. Automatic probate in California happens without a house in a trust.)

In the final 15 minutes of your hour, consider Googling for an estate planning attorney to review your plans and thoughts. Even your scratched-out notes! Or your quick assets/debts list. Or your half a will you started a long time ago. An attorney specializing in estate planning, especially if you have a home or investments, can provide valuable insights. Buy an hour or two of their time. You can set up your own estate planning (trusts, wills, healthcare directives, etc.) with a service like Legal Zoom, used by my husband and me over and over again. Or pay an attorney to formalize your notes.

Conclusion: Securing Your Legacy in One Hour

While estate planning may seem like a daunting task, dedicating just one hour of focused attention can make a significant difference in the progress to secure your legacy. Then be done with it! Once it's done, you don't have to think about it. By following these simple steps and using professional guidance where necessary, you can be assured that your estate is in order.

Remember, estate planning is an ongoing process that may require periodic review and updates. However, by taking that crucial first step, you set yourself on the path towards a more secure and efficient estate plan. If you got this far, get outside and take yourself for a walk.

Give us a call if we can talk to you about your real estate, estate planning for it, how setting up a trust is key, or if you want to buy or sell real estate in San Diego or California now.

Kimberly Dotseth, Blend Luxury Real Estate, California DRE #01179760 (619) 261-1909 and



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