Unless you are exposed to estate planning concepts and strategies on a regular basis they can be intimidating and confusing. Frequently this causes people to shy away from creating an estate plan despite understanding how important it is to have one in pace. Because every estate plan should be as unique as the person creating the plan, it is not possible to give universally applicable tips that fit every estate plan. The estate planning lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices, however, present the following top 10 tips in an effort to encourage more people to get started on their plan.
- Ignore myths and misconceptions. One of the most important tips is fairly simple – do not buy into any of the common myths and misconceptions regarding estate planning. The most common of those are that you don’t need a plan until you have made your “fortune” and that you should wait until you are married and/or become a parent to bother with an estate plan.
- Define your goals before you start. Although most estate plans begin with the goal of ensuring the estate left behind is not an intestate estate (one without a Will), after that estate planning goals can vary widely. Before getting started on your plan, take some time to think about
- Choose your Executor wisely. When you create your Last Will and Testament you will be required to appoint an Executor who will oversee the probate of your estate after your death. A common mistake is to appoint a spouse, family member or close friend without taking the time to consider if that person is really the best person for the job.
- Choose fiduciaries wisely. Throughout your estate plan you will likely be required to appoint people to fiduciary roles, such as a Trustee or Agent. Don’t just appoint a friend or family member because you trust them. Stop and consider if they have the qualities and experience necessary for the position.
- Know your assets and liabilities. You probably have a vague idea of your assets and liabilities; however, when you sit down to start on your estate plan you need to know both in detail. Start creating two lists – one for assets and one for liabilities. For each item on the lists, include a detailed description, current value or amount owed, location, and account passwords if applicable. Once your lists are created, you will simply need to update them from time to time as you acquire or sell assets.
- Incorporate incapacity planning into your plan. Over your lifetime, you will likely add numerous components to your estate plan as the need arises. One component that should be included from the beginning, however, is incapacity planning. When people think of incapacity they tend to envision someone who is elderly and suffering from Alzheimer’s, or a related condition. While conditions such as Alzheimer’s certainly can cause incapacity, the reality is that incapacity can strike anyone at any time.
- Have both long-term and short-term goals. A successful estate plan will consider immediate goals, such as ensuring that the inheritance of a minor child is protected should something happen to you at an early age, as well as long-term goals, such as Medicaid planning.
- Consider funeral and burial planning. People often do not want to consider the need for their own funeral and burial. While this is understandable, failing to include a funeral and burial component in your estate plan means you have no guarantee your wishes will be honored and you are leaving your loved ones to figure out the financial arrangements in the midst of their grief.
- Do not try to go the DIY route. In the age of the internet, it can be tempting to use DIY estate planning forms you encounter online in an effort to save time and/or money. Inevitably, using DIY forms ends up costing your loved ones considerably more time and money because of the errors and mistakes that are commonly found in those forms. Given the importance of your estate plan, working with an experienced estate planning attorney is imperative.
- Remember to revise and update your plan. A common estate planning mistake is forgetting to review and update your estate plan. Having an out of date estate plan can be worse than not having one at all.
Contact Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.
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