For those looking to put together an estate plan to ensure assets are handled correctly after death, there are several steps to take to make sure all the bases are covered during the process.
Depending on the particular situation you and your family find yourselves in, and the status of your finances, your estate will most likely consist of four to five important documents covering a range of areas associated with the estate. Here’s a rundown of some of the early decisions you can expect to make when sitting down with an experienced estate planning attorney to layout out your plan:
1. Gather a complete list of your current assets and any liabilities to your name
One task of the estate-planning attorney is to calculate your net worth and ultimately determine if you have a taxable estate. If you don’t right now, these figures can also help estimate whether you’ll have one in the future.
This master list will also help the attorney determine if any of your family members might be hard pressed to pay the taxes levied on your estate as well as any other ongoing debts that will need to be settled.
If a problem does arise, your estate-planning attorney can offer suggestions to help smooth out the rough edges of the plan so your family can feel confident the estate can be managed properly.
2. Make decisions regarding who will receive your assets
This is a relatively straightforward procedure that is primarily based off your personal wishes regarding where you intend your assets to go amongst family and friends. It is important to note, however, that in every state excluding Georgia, your spouse cannot be disinherited from the estate unless this right was waived in a premarital or post marital agreement.
In addition to your initial beneficiaries, you’ll also be prompted to make what amounts to a backup plan if your beneficiaries precede you in death or if an organization such as a charity is not available to accept your donation if you choose to donate a portion of your assets.
3. Decide the details of your beneficiary plans
In general, there are two primary ways to leave your assets with beneficiaries. The method you choose will take into account the beneficiary’s age and health as well as their financial and family situation.
Your attorney will assist you in deciding which needs to the beneficiaries need to be addressed and help you come to a decision.
If you decide to establish a trust, you’ll need to figure out its duration. This can be a fixed amount of time, or a specific age you’d like a beneficiary to be eligible to receive assets. During this process, you’ll also determine what will happen to any assets that remain in the trust if the beneficiary dies before using all the funds.
4. Put someone in charge of the estate plan
Although it may seem arbitrary, choosing someone to act in your best interests after you’re longer there to make decisions regarding your estate is one of the most important decisions to be made during this process with the attorney.
Each of the documents you draft will require you to select a fiduciary to act on your behalf. If this process seems confusing, don’t worry––your attorney will carefully explain the function of each role and help you make the best decision when it comes to placing family members in charge of your assets.
For a free initial consultation with an experienced Beloit Estate Planning Attorney, contact The Fitzgerald Law Firm today. We recognize that not everyone is capable of meeting during traditional business hours—let us know a time that’s convenient and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes