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What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning means making plans for everything you own, commonly known as your estate, to be transferred, shared, given, or divided up between loved ones or trusted acquaintances after you pass away or become unable to think for yourself.

Basically, your estate is everything you call your own such as: bank accounts, jewelry, vehicles, households, real estate, retirement plans, investments, etc. The process of estate planning also involves the inheritance of estates to beneficiaries and the payment of estate taxes.

There are typically three MAIN goals to estate planning which include:

  • If you are a parent to any minor children, that they have trusted guardians to care for them.
  • Ensuring that ideally all of your estate will have a home after you pass.
  • Making sure you have the least amount of estate taxes and if you have any, making sure they are paid.

A lot of people believe they are either too young or it’s too soon to start estate planning. This is something that should be started when someone becomes a legal adult (18), is in good health and state of mind, and has people who would be affected immediately by your passing.

7 Steps to Estate Planning

  1. Find an estate planner. Make sure to research estate planning attorneys or Certified Public Accountant in your area. Work with a professional if this is something new for you.
  2. Begin writing your will. A will is a written contract that gives details on who will get what from your estate. (Make sure to remember that a will does NOT avoid probate. Probate means that your will has been verified by someone. All assets that are named in your will must go through your state’s probate process prior to being given away).
  3. Think about a trust. A trust is when you choose someone(s) to manage the process of your beneficiaries gaining your estates. This person(s) will handle your estates if a beneficiary is too young or if they are not to receive it for a number of years.
  4. Plan for the unexpected. Make sure you write out specific instructions regarding your care plans if you become disabled or incapacitated before you pass away.
  5. Plan for your children. If you are a parent to minors, choose a trusted guardian to care for them and their inheritance.
  6. Pick an insurance beneficiary. Things such as life insurance, 401(k)s, retirement accounts, and life insurance also need to go to someone.
  7. Appoint your powers of attorney. This means choosing someone who will have legal power over your assets if/when you become unable to.

What Happens If you Don’t Estate Plan

In case of ill-timed disability: All of your estates and how you will be cared for is decided by a court appointee. Your family will not be able to decide for you.

In case of unfortunate death: This is where those probate laws come back into play. Without a plan, your assets will be decided based on the probate laws in your area. As a married couple with children, your family can receive a cut, but it might only be a small amount of what you would have originally given them. With minor children, the court will govern their share of estates and in case both parents pass away, they will also select a guardian at their choice even if you had someone in mind.

Estate Planning Pro Tips

  1. Increase your estate: When deciding on who or where your estate will go, think about different factors that make up everything you own. Make sure to get legal information on the best ways each asset will go their beneficiary designations. The process can be different for each asset based on the amount, nature, location, or age of recipient. Planning the best process can help you minimize taxes and other fees.
  2. Work with an attorney or legal advisor: What they attorney or legal advisor will do for you is help you navigate the legal documents, terms, and process required during this time. Certain tasks can involve a will, health care proxy, or a power of attorney. By talking through options and tactics with a legal professional, you can save long-term costs by avoiding unnecessary or unexpected fees.
  3. Think about a revocable living trust: This is different from a will because with a trust, your estates remain with you, ran by the representative you chose until your beneficiaries become of age, you are able to take care of loved ones for a longer period of time, and it is lawful in all states. It also prevents creditors, non-relatives, partners, and careless spending. This option is usually more costly than a will, but it does provide long-term security by being protected from court intrusion at the time of passing.

We are happy to assist you and your family with any estate planning needs. Please contact Megan Lucey at  775-412-1309 or [email protected]