Despite that fact that most people recognize the need to have an estate plan in place, most Americans do not have one. One of the primary reasons why the average person puts off creating an estate plan is the fact that estate planning can be intimidating and confusing to the uninitiated, which includes just about everyone. To take some of the mystery out of the estate planning process, the estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC answer the top five most frequently asked questions.
- When do I need to start estate planning? People are often under the mistaken impression that estate planning is not necessary until they have valuable estate assets to protect or until they have reached a specific milestone in their life, such as marriage or parenthood. The truth, however, is that every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place. Without a basic plan in place your estate would be probated as an intestate estate, meaning the state intestate succession laws determine what happens to your assets. In addition, an estate plan can accomplish much more than just deciding how your assets are handled after your death, such as planning for incapacity or protecting the assets you do have from a variety of threats.
- What should be included in my estate plan? The components you choose to include in your estate plan will depend, to a large extent, on what your individual estate planning goals are. At a bare minimum, however, you should execute a Last Will and Testament and have incapacity planning tools in place, such as a revocable living trust. As your estate, and your family, grow over the years, you may add components such as retirement planning, probate avoidance strategies, and Medicaid planning tools to your estate plan.
- How often should I update my estate plan? As a matter of routine, you should review and revise your estate plan every three to five years during your working years as events that prompt the need for a revision are more likely to happen during your younger years. Once you near retirement age, routine updates can be done every five to eight years. In addition, however, certain life events dictate the need for an immediate update to your estate plan, such as:
- Marriage or divorce – yours or that of a beneficiary in some cases
- Death of a beneficiary or fiduciary
- Major change in assets
- Move to a new state
- Major change in the applicable laws
- Youngest child reaches the age of majority
- What happens to my estate after I die? Your estate must go through the legal process known as probate. During probate, your Executor must identify and locate all estate assets and eventually pass those assets down to the intended beneficiaries. In addition, creditors of the estate must be notified and given an opportunity to file claims against the estate, and both state and federal gift and estate taxes must be paid, if applicable.
- Can I save time and money using DIY forms? In the age of the internet, it may seem like using DIY forms you find on the internet would be a great way to save time and money when creating your estate plan. Unfortunately, the converse is usually true. Going the DIY route, instead of working with an experienced estate planning attorney, often leads to costly litigation for your loved ones after you are gone. That litigation may cause a family feud that divides the family for years to come. The time and money you saved by foregoing the assistance of an attorney will likely cost your loved ones considerably more time and money after you are gone.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, or you are ready to get started with your plan, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.