Most people don’t have a will or trust, or it is out-of-date. Make it a goal this autumn to get your affairs in order. This article will help you prepare for meeting with your attorney for estate planning. When you meet they will ask you all sorts of questions, and for you to supply a lot of information. The longer you take of their time, the more costly the process will be. Also, the more prepared you are, the higher level of service and care you will recieve, this is becuase you didn’t have to spend a ton of time talking about the basics. You would have gotten some of that out of the way by studying this, and gathering some information.
Here are the various steps to build an estate plan for you and your family:
Step 1: Create a Written Financial Plan
Acquire a financial plan. Having a plan gives you the road map to help you figure out your present and future financial condition. People don’t plan to fail—they fail to plan. The process of creating a financial plan enables you to understand and establish your goals for you and your family. Your financial plan will also serve as a compass, giving you proper direction for commencing the estate-planning process.
Step 2: Understand Basic Estate Planning Concepts
The following is a partial list and brief explanations of the concepts you may need to understand as you prepare to plan your estate.
- A Will provides for distribution of property you owned at the time of your death in any manner you choose, subject to state limitations, and assets that didn’t have a beneficiary (which means the estate is the beneficiary) and the will and probate process will sort that out.
- A Guardian is someone you name in your will to care for your children in case something happens to both parents.
- Trusts are created to hold, own, and control property. They can also help your survivors avoid some parts and expenses of probate court. They can also provide creditor protection and privacy.
- A Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney help if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
- A Durable Power of Attorney grants legal authority to a trusted person to handle your finances and property if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs.
- Asset Transfers to Children require special handling—your estate plan should name a guardian if they are a minor or provide for a trust to manage money your children may inherit from you.
- Estate Taxes and Income Taxes may be deducted from your estate if it’s large. Talk to your attorney about charitable planning, gifting, trusts, and irrevocable life insurance trusts.
- Funeral Expenses are best paid by cash and not funeral prepayment plans; pre-arrangement is okay though.
- A Letter of Instruction is a document that you create to explain your wishes; be sure to include your plans for your organs and burial or cremation.
- Business and Farm Plans are important if you own them; your estate plan should address the complexities specific to these situations
- Document Organization and Storage is important for locating important documents when they are needed. Locate all important documents and review them.
- Life Insurance instantly provides significant amounts of cash to help provide for your dependents, pay off debt, and pay estate taxes. Your financial plans should include a life insurance review.
Step 3: Make a Checklist of Concerns
Check any of the following that may apply to your situation. If you are unsure about a particular item, check it anyway so your attorney may address each ones.
- Charitable wishes
- Distributing assets to your heirs or disinheriting
- Medicaid impoverishment issues (tread carefully in this area)
- Protection for: Minimize estate and income taxes, heirs losing inheritance, avoiding probate process and expense, heirs spendthrift tendencies, creditor protection, greed of heirs, children, business or Farm plans
- Common issues: Guardians of minors, keeping plans private (out of public record), children of previous marriage and current marriage, minimize costly estate expenses, designate recipients of specific assets, grandchildren inheriting, avoid family quarrels over the estate, special needs child, property in other states or countries and disability planning
Step 4: Outline Your Wishes
Outline your wishes prior to the meeting with the attorney. It is important that your estate planning documents clearly reflect your intentions. This will prevent misunderstandings.
- Think through scenarios of how your property will pass if: You predecease your spouse or your spouse predeceases you. Children predecease you, you and your spouse die at the same time. Determine who you want to be the guardian of your minor children and what age would you prefer property to be available to your children with and without restrictions.
- Designate your preferred recipients for any specific assets.
- List charitable organizations you want to include in your estate plan and the amount you wish to give or the asset(s) you wish to donate.
- Ask your attorney to explain all of your options and the issues that may apply to your situation.
Step 5: Assembling Information for the Attorney pdf link
Step 6: Change Ownership and Beneficiary Arrangements: Ownership and Beneficiaries should be reviewed as the final step of estate planning to coordinate with your plan. This may be the most neglected part of the estate planning process. Make necessary changes to property ownership (e.g., homes, life insurance, investments) and beneficiaries (e.g., life insurance, annuities, pensions, IRAs and transfer-on-death accounts) to coordinate with estate plans.
Summary – Estate and Legacy planning is a process. Engage trusted legal, financial, and tax advisors to help you complete the process from the initial design, document drafting and implementation, and reviewing your plans from time to time, You, your loved ones, and your business and charitable concerns will be glad that you did.