Life is incredibly fragile, and a lot of people these days are facing up to their own mortality. If you’re starting to think about your estate planning needs and want to get started, here are the things you can do right now:
- You have to identify your goals. Your values and your hopes for the future, including who you wish to protect or have benefit from your estate, will largely shape your estate plans.
- You need to take stock of your assets. Whether you have significant property holdings or just your personal items that you want to disburse, you need to have a list ready to properly allocate things to your heirs.
- It’s time to consider your financial risks. The more you have, the bigger the chance that those assets could be lost to taxes and probate fees. It’s important to address what would happen if you enter long-term care or have creditor claims against you in the future. You also need to consider what risks lie in wait for your loved ones, like any minor or disabled children you have who may need guardians.
- It’s also time to think about your heirs. Who do you want to inherit what you have? You may want personal items or some of your assets to go to friends or distant relatives, not just your direct descendants or spouse. You may also want to give some of your assets to charity so that you leave a positive legacy behind.
- You need to consider all possible situations. You may become incapacitated before your death, so it’s smart to have someone designated with your powers of attorney for financial matters and health care decisions.
- You should also examine your insurance policies. Anything that pays a death benefit directly to someone will probably skip probate entirely. Make sure that you have the right beneficiaries listed.
Once you have your thoughts in order, make an appointment to talk with an experienced attorney about your estate plans.