A strong estate plan can help protect your loved ones and your wealth if you become incapacitated or die. The frustration, confusion and expense your family will face if you do not have a plan in place are too significant, especially when they will already be grieving. Here are the essential steps to make a strong estate plan.
Make a List of Your Assets and Debts
Before you can plan your estate, you need to know what it is consists of. Make a list of all of your assets, including:
- Real estate, including your home, any rental property, land, timeshares or other real estate interests
- Financial accounts, such as checking, saving or money market accounts
- Investment accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds
- Personal property, such as collections of art, jewelry and furniture
- Vehicles, boats and planes
- Digital assets, including loyalty points and awards, music, pictures and videos
Also, write a list of your various debts, including your mortgage and consumer debts
Make Non-Probate Transfers
Now that you know what assets you have, you can start deciding how to distribute them. Some assets can pass outside of the probate estate, which decreases the value of your probate estate and the cost to administer it. For example, you can pass real property to a loved one through a deed or a bank account through a payable on death designation. Likewise, your life insurance and retirement account will go to the person you name on your beneficiary designation form.
Pick Your Fiduciaries Carefully
Having good fiduciaries in place is an important component of your estate plan. You should only place people you trust in important roles, such as your power of attorney, executor or trustee.
A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can also set up safeguards to identify any misconduct early and remedies on how to address it.
Set up an Advance Directive
There is no reason why you need to leave your healthcare decisions up to chance. You can decide now what type of end-of-life treatment you want to receive as well as designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.
Make a Trust
If you have specific ways that you want your assets to be handled after your passing, you can make a trust that provides these instructions. A living trust can also be an effective way to manage your property and money if you become incapacitated.
Make a Will
Unless you own no property at the time of your passing, you will still need a will to dictate what happens to your probate estate. You can also name a guardian for your minor children in your will.
Hire a Qualified Estate Planning Lawyer
A qualified estate planning lawyer can ensure that your estate planning documents provide clear instructions and meet all necessary requirements. Ronald Axelrod has practiced law for more than 35 years and can apply best practices to develop a strong estate plan for you. Contact the Law Offices of Ronald J. Axelrod & Associates, P.C. to schedule your confidential consultation.