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Bottom Line Up Front

  • If you engage in estate planning, you’ll make things much easier on your heirs.
  • Organizing your documents and passwords as well as creating a will are the most basic steps you can take to get your affairs in order.
  • It’s also important to have trusted people lined up to execute your wishes and make financial or health-related decisions if you can’t. 

Time to Read

4 minutes

May 2, 2022

The loss of a loved one is never easy. Take action now so your loved ones don’t have to guess (and stress) about what to do when you pass away. Not sure where to begin? Here are 7 estate planning tips to get you started:

  1. Organize your assets. Make sure your family members and/or representative can find your life insurance policies, deeds, titles, pension and financial account records. For online accounts, keep a list of passwords in a safe place and let your personal representative/executor (the person who will be carrying out your wishes) know where it and other important documents are.
  2. Review beneficiary designations. The accounts and policies in which you listed a beneficiary will pass to that person after you’re gone. Updating beneficiaries is especially important during estate planning because these take precedence over your will. 

    How to get started:
    Review and update beneficiaries on insurance policies, employer and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and annuities. 
  3. Create a will. The most basic estate planning document, a will allows you to name beneficiaries, distribute your money and personal property and, if you have minor children, name their guardians. Without one, a probate court will divide your estate. 

    How to get started: Hire an estate-planning attorney to draw up your will or use computer software and write it yourself. (If you prepare a will yourself, you may want to have a lawyer review it to ensure everything is in order to simplify the probate process.) 
  4. Consider a trust. A trust may give you more control, help you reach charitable goals and—depending on the type of trust—may help save on estate taxes. If you own real estate, a living trust can help your heirs avoid probate. Trusts can relieve heirs of the burden of managing assets. They can also spell out conditions heirs must meet before receiving assets. Trusts can be a great way to provide for both a surviving spouse and children from a previous marriage. 

    How to get started:
      If your trust needs are basic, Navy Federal Credit Union offers Estate Management options to help members manage and transfer assets themselves.
  5. Set up a living will. A living will, also called a health care directive, allows you to specify in writing the kinds of health care you want under certain conditions if you’re unconscious or otherwise not able to communicate. 

    How to get started:
    Each state has a different process for setting up a living will. You may be able to obtain forms from your health care provider or your state department on aging.  
  6. Designate a health care proxy. A health care proxy, also known as health care agent or medical power of attorney, enables you to allow someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you're not able to. 

    How to get started:
    View the American Bar Association’s Guide to Giving Someone a Power of Attorney for Your Health Care. You may also get help from an estate-planning attorney.
  7. Consider naming a financial power of attorney. This will allow a trusted person to take care of your financial decisions if you can’t. 

    How to get started:
    An estate-planning attorney can help you draft the legal forms to assign power of attorney. 

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. To learn more about estate planning, Navy Federal Credit Union offers trust and estate-planning strategies to help ensure you’re prepared. 
  2. Talk to a financial advisor. Navy Federal Investment Services financial advisors provide a full array of Trust Services to help you with estate planning and trusts.


Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC (NFFG) is a licensed insurance agency. Non-deposit investments, brokerage, and advisory products are only sold through Navy Federal Investment Services, LLC (NFIS), a member of FINRA/SIPC and an SEC registered investment advisory firm. NFIS is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFFG. Insurance products are offered through NFFG and NFIS. These products are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guaranteed or obligations of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), are not offered, recommended, sanctioned, or encouraged by the federal government, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Deposit products and related services are provided by NFCU. Digital Investor offered through NFIS. Financial Advisors are employees of NFFG, and they are employees and registered representatives of NFIS. NFIS and NFFG are affiliated companies under the common control of NFCU. Call 1-877-221-8108 for further information.

This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.