COLUMN: Estate planning is something to discuss with your family

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By Theresa Howard

 Have you ever asked yourself the “what if” questions? What if something should happen to me today? What if something should happen to my spouse or business partner? What if I have an accident that leaves me incapacitated? 

No one likes to think about these questions. However, the answers are very important to your surviving family members. Taking the time to answer those questions can provide peace of mind. It also can mean that your wishes for asset distribution following death will be followed. 

If you should die without some form an estate plan in place, such as a will, your property and other assets will be distributed according to Kentucky state law. Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. If you do not wish to have your assets distributed according to state law, then you will need to develop your own estate plan. 

The estate planning process can be quite simple, depending on the size and complexity of your estate. The first step is to get organized by gathering important information and documents. Start by making a list of your assets, or everything that you own. Include all property, including your home, farm property, rental property and other business assets. Additionally, list other investments and assets, such as stocks, bonds, retirement plans, insurance policies, banking accounts and cash.

As you list your assets, be certain to note how each asset is titled. For example, are you the sole owner, a joint owner with your spouse, or does the asset, such as a life insurance policy, have a specific beneficiary listed?

Once you have completed a list of all assets, make a similar list of all debts owed, such as mortgages, car loans, credit cards and installments debts. If you subtract your total debts from your total assets, the result will be your net worth. Remember, estate planning is too important of a topic to delay planning.