There is not a person alive who has put something off until it seems as though a problem has grown from manageable to one that haunts your dreams. The longer you procrastinate, the more hesitant you become. Once you finally decide to tackle it, you realize taking that first step is always the hardest, but always necessary. The same is true for estate planning. We avoid it, we put it off and before long, it seems like an overwhelming quagmire that is going to take a big chunk of your life once you finally decide to tackle it. Turns out, once you get that foundation in place, estate planning loses its larger than life intimidation factor. Not only that, but once you are moving forward, you find it feels as though a burden has been lifted because you know you are covering those important bases. So what exactly goes into laying the foundation for estate planning?
Estate Planning and Avoiding Probate
First, you need to take a very realistic look at your debt, assets and savings habits. Once you have that lined up, setting up a will is the first best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones. A will is a fine first step and not only that, but it eliminates probate. There are as many ways to create a will as there are people. The priority is accuracy and complete coverage. You will need to select an executor who will ensure your wishes are met as they are spelled out in your will.
When is the last time you checked the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts? Have you divorced and/or remarried since then? You will need to make those changes if you have; otherwise, you are going to have one happy former spouse and one current spouse who is not only grieving your loss, but probably angry that you did not make those changes.
Remember, unless you are wanting to make life hard for a surviving spouse, your best bet is to keep it straightforward in your designation. Too many beneficiaries on any one retirement account can quickly complicate matters.
Do Not Forget the Kids
Many of us have children who are adults and because of that, there is no need to appoint anyone to oversee their inheritances. If your children are minors, however, you will need to name someone who is trustworthy and reliable to manage the inheritance. You can name a property guardian if you feel it is necessary.
Many prefer to set up trusts, which is always a smart move and has many benefits. You can use trusts to bypass some taxes while setting up rules for when children can receive control of the trust. Your estate planning lawyer can help set these up.
Finally, and this one is a bit tricky for some families: discuss your will and estate plan. Let your family know what, if anything, they will inherit. It can spare major hurt feelings between family members since there will be no surprises once the will has been read.
Your best first step when it comes to estate planning is to seek professional, legal guidance. Contact us today to learn more about putting these important legal documents into place before it is too late.