Still don’t have an estate plan?
With the new year, it’s time to begin planning for your loved ones should something happen to you. We have reviewed why estate plans are for everyone in an earlier post.
As a reminder, an estate plan may include one or all of the following depending on your needs:
- A will
In a will, you state who you want to inherit your property and name a guardian for your young children should something happen to both parents.
- Assignment of power of attorney
With a power of attorney, you can give a trust person authority to handle your finances and property if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs.
- A living will or health-care proxy (medical power of attorney)
Writing out your wishes for health care can protect you if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
- A trust
If you hold your property in a living trust, then your survivors won’t have to go through probate court, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
Nobody enjoys estate planning, but it is necessary. The first step is to make a list of all of your assets and goals before talking to an attorney. Your assets include investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, business interests, real estate and more.
Next decide what you want to achieve with those assets and who should inherit them. This is also a great time to think about the person that would the best to handle your business affairs should something happen to you. Many people assign this duty to a spouse or an outside financial or legal advisor who can act as a neutral third party.
Then it is time to meet with a trusted estate lawyer who can prepare all the necessary legal documents and help you think through the best scenarios for all of your assets including protecting you and your heirs from heavy tax fees.
The most important step is to discuss your plans with your heirs. This is the best way for everyone to understand your goals and intentions so there will be less chance for confusion and arguing when you are gone.
Finally, don’t forget to have your estate plan updated should there be a change in your financial situation, marital status, addition of children, etc. Your lawyer will act as your legal partner to make sure all documents needed are also up to date with the latest state and federal laws.
For more in-depth information about estate planning, contact one of our experienced attorneys.