After months of thought and discussion, you have begun the first steps toward creating an estate plan. Good for you. A solid and effective estate plan protects you, your legacy and your family. You want to be the one to decide what happens to your assets. Without a will, the state makes those decisions for you, and governments are not known for being swift.
There are many important details to address in estate planning. Will you better benefit from a will or a trust? Whom do you want to name as the executor of your will or guardian of your minor children? Financial and health care matters must be addressed, too. And, if you have a special needs child, you may consider creating a special needs trust.
Research, find trusted attorney, make decisions
When creating an estate plan, here are some crucial and helpful pointers:
- Do some independent research. This will help you understand the basics in laying a foundation whether creating a will or trust. Plenty of websites and books can help. Also, reach out to trusted friends, relatives and acquaintances to learn about their experiences.
- Find an experienced attorney who focuses on estate planning matters. Once again, do some legwork on your own. Among the sources to also contact are trusted professionals with whom you already have a relationship. This list may include your financial planner, insurance agent or real estate agent.
- Talk with your family about your intentions. This is a good thing and may help avoid any potential disputes.
- Once you have created a will, do not forget to review it every three or four years. It may need an update. Whenever life events surface, update your will. Life events may include a marriage, divorce, birth of a child or grandchild, death of a spouse and other beneficiaries or an out-of-state move.
- Instead of a will, consider a living trust, which allows you to manage your assets while you remain alive. You can change its terms at any time and avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process. A trust also provides more privacy, because trusts are not a matter of public record. Wills are.
Please do not feel overwhelmed, though, in creating an estate plan and understanding its fundamentals. Ultimately, an effective estate plan provides you and you family with peace of mind.