Simple Steps for Estate Planning

Estate planning involves deciding what will happen to your assets when you pass away of if you should become incapacitated. It ensures that your wishes are carried out the way that you want them to be.

Many people assume that an estate plan is something that is only reserved for the wealthy, but that’s not the case. Having an estate plan is a vital part of planning for your future and providing for your loved ones, making it a wise investment for anyone, no matter how large or meager your estate may be.

The process of planning an estate may sound tedious, but it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. With the help of an attorney that specializes in estate planning and the following information, you create an effective estate plan.

Develop an Inventory of Assets and Debts

Sit down and create a list of all the things that you own, as well as the money you owe. This should include any property, vehicles, financial accounts, furnishings, and personal effects that you own outright and that you owe money on.

Create a comprehensive list of your assets and debts, and make sure that you write down all of the pertinent details, such as names, contact information, and advisers. You should also secure original copies of documents that serve as proof of ownership. Keep a copy of this inventory for yourself in a secure location. Provide the person who will be named the executor of your will with a copy, as well.

Make a Will

A will is a legal document that ensures your heirs will receive the assets that you want to leave them. In your will, an executor will be named. This is the person who will distribute your estate and handle your debts in the manner that you have highlighted in your will, so make sure you choose someone that you trust completely.

Should you pass away without a will, state intestacy laws will determine how your assets will be distributed to your survivors. If you are married and have children, your assets will be split between your spouse and children, and if you are single, they will be distributed to blood relatives, even if you would have preferred that they go to someone you are not related to.

Consider a Living Trust

You can also pass your assets to your heirs after you pass away through a living trust. Unlike a will, a living trust avoids probate, a process that involves the courts determining whether or not your will is valid. Probate can be very time-consuming and costly. If you would want to save your loved ones from going through the hassle of the probate process, creating a living trust may be worthwhile.

Name Your Beneficiaries

Not all property will go through probate, which means that not all of your assets will be passed to your survivors through your will. For example, if you have retirement accounts or life insurance policies, they will pass to the beneficiaries that you have named on those documents.

It’s important that you review your beneficiaries and make changes, if necessary. You might be surprised to find that you named someone a beneficiary when you opened an account and that you no longer want that individual to receive your assets.

Protect Children and Dependents

One of the most important benefits of an estate plan is the protection it can offer your children and dependents and ensure that their future needs are cared for.

Make sure that you include provisions for any children who are under the age of 18, including naming guardians. If you have relatives with special needs who are dependent on you, make sure that you also address their care.

Establish Health Care Directives

An estate plan can also protect you in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make important decisions regarding your own care. Include a health care directive in your estate plan. Include a health care declaration (how you would want to be cared for) and name a power of attorney for your health care (the person who will make the decisions for your health care if you are unable to make those decisions).

Name a Durable Power of Attorney

Estate planning involves more than taking care of your surviving loved ones. It should also ensure that your wishes for how your money and health care will be handled should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions regarding these important matters are carried out.

An ordinary power of attorney does not remain in effect when you are no longer able to handle your own financial affairs; a durable power of attorney, on the other hand, does. If you don’t have a durable power of attorney and you do become debilitated, a judge will appoint a guardian or a conservator to handle your assets and your financial responsibilities.

Whether you are young and have few assets or you are older and have accumulated multiple assets throughout your life, an estate plan will help to reduce the impact that unforeseen circumstances will have on you and your family. Contact our law firm to start taking the steps to creating your estate plan today.

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