The ABC's of Estate Planning & Estate Planning Checklist

The ABC's of Estate Planning

The ABC's of Estate Planning

    With the new year already behind us there is no better time to start planning for the future than now. Typical New Year’s resolutions involve the formation of newer, healthier habits, such as losing weight, smoking cessation and healthy diet changes. Often people also resolve to get organized. Organizing your estate is one New Year’s resolution definitely worth honoring.
    Proper estate planning is important because it ensures that your loved ones and property will be properly cared for and managed in the event of your death. It can be hard for people to think of their own demise, but it is necessary to avoid serious complications for your loved ones after you are gone. Developing guidelines regarding how you want your assets and property distributed will greatly decrease conflict and confusion. In addition, it will give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones would be cared for.
    Even if you already have an estate plan in place, it is important to review your plan regularly to account for changes that occur over time. To ensure that your plans are handled properly, it pays to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. They can guide you through this otherwise daunting process by educating you on your options and then helping you implement your unique planning priorities. Because they are the essential building blocks to any estate plan, your estate planning attorney will take you through the ABC’s of estate planning: Assets, Beloved and Course of action.

Your Assets

     Think of all that you have acquired in your lifetime. Your assets, or property, including both real property (i.e., real estate) and personal property (everything else). It is important to account for all you possess, and the value of those possessions, so your loved ones will not be left with the task of sifting through your property.

Your Beloved

     Throughout our lifetime, we come to know and love many people. We form relationships that enrich our lives; we often touch those lives in return. The people who mean most to you can vary depending on your individual circumstances. For instance, when you think of those whom you value most you may think of your spouse, children and grandchildren. Maybe you think of parents or extended relatives, such as nieces and nephews. Oftentimes, it is our closest friends whom we hold dear. Beyond the cherished individuals in your life there may be additional entities you want to include like a religious organization or charity. It is helpful to take some time to jot down a list of all of your beloved.

Your Course of Action

    When developing your estate plan you must take care in selecting who will oversee the execution of your wishes. This person will make personal, health care and financial decisions in your stead in the event of your incapacity. In most cases, this successor will also manage your property following your death. When selecting this individual, or individuals, there are some important things to consider. This person must be a reliable decision maker who will uphold your wishes. Additionally, they must have the time and expertise needed to serve. You may consider appointing a professional who can aid your successor, such as a trust company or a certified public accountant.
    Failure to make legal arrangements regarding the division and distribution of property often leads to conflict among family members and can destroy these relationships. This is especially true in regards to sentimental or one-of-a-kind items. It can be helpful to discuss these particular items with your loved ones so as to avoid future conflict and hurt feelings.
    In conclusion, when reviewing your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to include implementing your estate plan. A poor plan, or lack thereof, can result in a variety of undesired outcomes such as family conflicts, the loss of a family business, lawsuits, dissipation of your life’s work and more. By consulting with an estate planning attorney, your plan will carry out your wishes for your loved ones when you are no longer there to care for them. That is great peace of mind.

Estate Planning Checklist

Death and Disputes

    Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions? During this time of reflection, it is important to get your year off to a good start. One resolution you should stick to is organizing you estate. What would happen to your loved ones and your property should you die? This may not be something you want to think about, but it is an important topic that needs to be considered carefully. Estate planning will guarantee that those you love are cared for and that your wishes are followed. It also ensures that ideal decisions are made on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of "peace of mind" by resolving your estate issues today.
    Here is a checklist of things you should bring when you meet with your estate planning attorney:

Personal Information

Your Plans

Your Assets

Record the current value of any of the following assets:

Liabilities Summary

Congratulations! By completing this checklist, you are well on your way to organizing your estate. Make an appointment with your estate planning attorney today, and before you know it, your estate planning will be complete.

This publication does not constitute legal, accounting or other professional advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material.

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