Estate Planning Basics


Have you created your estate plan? Don’t overlook your assets by mistakenly believing you don’t have an estate. If you have something you value that you want someone else to have when you pass on or become incapacitated, that’s part of it.

A basic plan for your estate is one of the most important financial documents you can have. And if you don’t write it yourself, the state will do it for you and you probably won’t approve of what they choose. After all, the state is not you, and doesn’t know what you’d prefer to have done with your assets. Not to mention that when the court handles your estate plan, it usually gets very expensive and complicated for your family members.

Generally speaking, your estate plan will encompass how your estate is accumulated, conserved, and distributed. It will also state what should happen to you and who should handle matters should you suffer a serious injury or illness.

A quality plan drafted by a professional estate planning attorney will maintain and enhance your financial security and the security of your family.

What Your Estate Plan Must Have

In order to reach your goals in estate planning, you’ll require certain documents. It also helps to have at least a basic understanding of why you need them and how they work. Generally, this will include:

  • Wills: Your will is the foundation of your estate plan.“Creating a will gives you sole discretion over the distribution of your assets,” said Lisa Smith, financial services writer and contributor at Investopedia. “It lets you decide how your belongings, such as cars or family heirlooms, should be distributed. If you have a business or investments, your will can direct the smooth transition of those assets.”
  • Trusts: Trusts help you avoid probate, meaning that your beneficiaries can access your assets quicker than they might with a will. In addition, certain types of trusts (such as irrevocable trusts) might not count as taxable, meaning your family has access to more of what’s left.
  • Tax Information: Gift, income, and estate tax planning will all affect the structure of your estate plan. An estate planning professional can help you understand this often confusing subject.

What will Your Estate Plan Allow You to Do?

Anyone who dies without having made a will has died “intestate.” This is not only costly and stressful for your remaining family and loved ones, but also means you don’t get a say as to how your remaining assets are distributed. Having a plan will let you:

Select an executor:

This will be the person you want responsible for distributing your assets. If you have failed to appoint this person yourself, the court will select someone to do the job.

Designate your Children’s Guardian:

If you’re leaving behind any minor children, an estate plan gives you a chance to decide who will care for them. Without choosing this yourself, the court may appoint someone who you wouldn’t have chosen.

Minimize Stress for your Family:

Losing someone is hard enough. Without clear and legally valid instructions for how to handle your estate, your family may be overwhelmed or confused at the prospect.

Organize your Policies and Records:

Does your family know where you keep your financial documents, insurance policies, and titles? Taking the time to plan your estate ahead of time will allow you to organize these records, make sure they are all in a safe place, and correct any existing errors.

Many people don’t double check the wording they use on beneficiary designations or titles. Even an innocent error made with good intentions can create complications and problems for your remaining loved ones when you pass on. Beneficiary designations might be invalid or out-of-date, for instance. It’s better to check that this is done right instead of leaving your family with a mess later.

Working with an Attorney

It’s not only advised, but crucial, to work with a lawyer when creating your estate plan. The attorney will guide you through creating your fundamental documents, including your will, health care information, and power of attorney. You might additionally need to hire a tax advisor if your situation calls for it.

You will be the one making the decisions, but the attorney can explain the potentially complex results of each choice. Your attorney will also help you to state your desires in a clear manner, avoid errors, minimize estate taxes, and alter your estate plan as your situation changes. An estate planning attorney is worth the money as you can get significant savings from informed, thorough planning.

 Tips for Meeting with an Estate Planning Lawyer

Even though the conversation you and your family will have with an attorney about planning your estate is very important, it can still be hard to initiate. Your loved ones might be uncomfortable or emotional when you suggest meeting the lawyer. Here are some helpful suggestions for preparing them to do so:

  • Choose a Comfortable Setting: This applies both to the area you meet your lawyer in and the period of time. Waiting until you fall ill or a crisis strikes could make it hard for family members to communicate effectively and remember what they learn in the meeting.
  • Be Clear with Your Family: Make sure your family knows that you are setting up the meeting to ensure that your intentions are understood and carried out.
  • Show the Importance: Your family should be made well aware of how important this process is.

You can also plan ahead by creating a list of questions to ask your attorney, including concerns of each family member. These guidelines will help make the process of speaking with a professional estate planning attorney run much smoother.

Call our Estate team at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.

Contact The JacksonWhite Estate Team

Call (480) 467-4325 or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation and discuss your best legal options.

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