Before speaking to an estate lawyer, spend some time thinking about what you want your estate plan to include. Presenting your wishes and goals to your estate lawyer will help them create a plan that meets your needs and takes some of the burden from your loved ones. Read on for what those planning for their estate needs should consider as they move toward a complete plan.
Who Should Inherit Your Estate?
Consider the people that you want to have your property after you have passed away. Keep in mind that if you are married, you should not just assume that your spouse will inherit your estate. Some states divide the estate between the spouse and all the adult children. On the other hand, you usually cannot exclude a current spouse from inheriting the family home. Make a list of everyone who you want to recognize with an inheritance and your estate lawyer will advise you about what types of estate plans are best for the purpose.
What Should You Leave Behind?
Estates come in all sizes. Estates consist of real estate, vehicles, bank and investment accounts, jewelry, art, precious metals, collectibles, and even pets. Make a list of everything you think is worth mentioning no matter how small and inexpensive and then match those items to a beneficiary. Some people keep things simple, though, and leave the entire estate to one or more parties. This is known as a per stirpes provision in the case of a will.
Think About Health Issues
It's important to consider what might happen if you become unable to make decisions about your healthcare and financial affairs. You should choose a trusted person or two to oversee your financial affairs using powers of attorney. Also, think about what you want to be done, or not to be done, when your health makes it impossible to make your wishes known. Instead of placing the burden on loved ones, decide how many life-sustaining measures you want using a healthcare directive or living will.
Trusts and Wills
Trusts are an increasingly popular alternative to wills. They do similar things but are easier to use and the property contained in a trust avoids probate. They are more flexible than wills because they allow the creator to make conditions on the inheritances. For instance, you can set up a trust fund for your minor-aged children or grandchildren, choose a trustee, and specify how much and when funds are to be provided to them.
The above should get you started thinking about your estate plan. Contact an estate lawyer today to learn more.