An estate plan may come off as something just for wealthy families with a lot of assets and investments. While it is incredibly crucial for those types of families to have a well thought out and detailed plan, it is just as important for anyone to be prepared for that time when you pass, so your family is set up in the best possible way.
Make a Will or Setup a Living Trust
Many individuals opt to write a will with their attorney because it’s fairly simple – write down who will inherit your property, assets, or other belongings, and if you have young children, name who will become their guardian if both parents are unable to take care of them. Anything gathered in a will to be distributed will have to take place in probate court, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.
A living trust, on the other hand, is put into place while you’re alive, can be modified just like a will, and allows your family to avoid probate and the public records altogether.
Name Beneficiaries for Your Financial Assets
If a financial asset held by an institution has a named beneficiary, when you pass away it will go directly to that named person and avoid probate. This can include retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance, brokerage accounts, stocks, and bonds.
Determine Your Health Care Wishes
Thinking about your future health care can be difficult, but it is important for your loved ones to know what your wishes are if something unexpected were to happen. This includes giving someone power of attorney – someone you trust to make the decisions if you become unable to.
Keep All Documents Easily Accessible
Keeping everything organized and ready at a moment’s notice will be a tremendous help for your attorney and your executor, the individual who will administer your belongings if you have a will. This can include:
- Legal will document or trust
- Insurance policies
- Real estate deeds and vehicle titles
- Account information – banks, retirement, investments
- Debt information – credit cards, mortgages, other loans, unpaid taxes
- Any other details you would like to be known that you’ve written or made a video for
This list is not exhaustive, as an estate plan can become very complex. Utilizing the expertise of an estate planning attorney is vital to ensure your estate is set up in the most beneficial way for your heirs. Especially if you think some of your assets are liable to inheritance or other taxes, a lawyer will help you keep your estate together and out of probate if you prefer to avoid legal fees and lengthy court proceedings.