Hopefully, you already understand the benefits you gain from having an estate plan in place, even if you have yet to create that plan. Now, however, it’s time to get started creating your plan. To help you feel better prepared, the estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC offers some estate planning tips for the beginner.
Estate Planning Tips
Before you sit down to create your estate plan, you should do some serious thinking and make several important decisions. Making a list so you know what you need to do and what decisions you need to make when creating your initial estate plan can be helpful.
- Choosing an attorney. The “Do-It-Yourself” route should not be an option considering how important your estate plan is to you and to your loved ones. You can find a wide range of estate planning “fill-in-the-blanks” forms on the internet; however, the odds are high that the form you find will have significant errors and/or omissions that could ultimately cost your loved ones a significant amount of time and money when it comes to administering your estate through the court process of probate. Instead of risking the success of your plan by going the DIY route, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about your estate plan.
- Defining your goals. Your initial estate planning goal may simply be the distribution of your estate assets after you are gone; however, a comprehensive estate plan can help you achieve numerous other goals as well, such as incapacity planning, protecting the inheritance of a minor child, or ensuring you can afford the high cost of long-term care if you need it as a senior by incorporating Medicaid planning tools into your plan.
- Assessing your assets and liabilities. You undoubtedly have a fairly good idea of what assets you own; however, for the purpose of creating an estate plan you should make a detailed list, including current value, location, and identifying information (account number, registration number, lot number etc.). Make the same list for your liabilities, people and companies that you owe money too (e.g. credit cards, utilities, phone/cable) that you made for your assets.
- Contemplating your beneficiaries. For the most part, you beneficiaries will be easy enough to identify; however, there may be a few less obvious beneficiaries on the list. Your pet, for example, or a favorite charity might be included once you give it some thought. You also need to think about substitute or successor beneficiaries in case one of your beneficiaries predeceases you.
- Choosing your decision makers. Choosing your decision makers, called fiduciaries, is one of the most important decisions you will make when creating your estate plan. This is also where people frequently make costly mistakes. Before appointing a spouse, adult child, or best friend as your Executor, for example, stop and consider if that person is really the best choice for the position. The same hold true for naming a Trustee for a trust you create as part of your plan. A Trustee’s duties and responsibilities are numerous and varied, and ideally require a background in law or finance. You may wish to consider a professional Trustee to ensure that your trust is successful. As with your beneficiaries, you will also need to think about successor fiduciaries in case your first choice cannot or will not serve.
- Signing documents. A surprising amount of litigation centers on improper signing or execution of estate planning documents. To avoid this, make sure that your documents are executed properly, pursuant to the laws of the state. If you work with an estate planning attorney, your attorney will make sure everything is properly executed and can act as a witness to your state of mind at the time you signed each document in case that ever becomes an issue.
- Updating your plan. Among the most common mistakes people make when estate planning is failing to review and revise the plan they create. To ensure that your plan covers all your current needs, make sure to review the plan every few years as well as when a life event, such as divorce, calls for a revision. At Morris Hall, we recommend having your estate plan reviewed every three years.
Contact a Local Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, or you are ready to get started creating your estate plan, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today. Morris Hall has offices throughout Arizona and New Mexico, including Phoenix, Mesa, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe.