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Expert Tips for Creating an Estate Plan

As we get older, our needs and expectations both start to change as well. We start focusing on appreciating the time we have left, spending it with our loved ones, and doing more of what we love. Regardless of how much we try to make up for the lost time, aging comes with the pressing concern of running out of time.

No one knows what life has in store for them, so we can never prepare too early for when our time finally comes. There’s a lot to be done in preparing for that time, and creating an estate plan falls on top of the list. If you feel lost as to where to start, perhaps these expert tips can help you.

Make a Comprehensive List of Your Assets and Liabilities

It’s finally time to sit back and start looking at the product of your life. While contemplating the meaning of the life you’ve created is one part of this process, you’ll need to look at it in a more materialistic sense. This is where you start counting all the assets you’ve gathered, the money you’ve saved, and the properties you’ve owned. Some items on this list are quite obvious; you won’t forget to count your house, car, and bank savings. However, other items may be forgotten among the more obvious ones, such as ongoing investments and shares, cash value of insurance policies, art, jewelry, or other items that don’t hold much financial value but matter to you personally.

Following your assets, you’ll start looking for any liabilities you might have as well. This may not be a pleasant process, but it’s necessary in order to create a proper estate plan. Your liabilities include any unpaid debts, loans, mortgage, credit card balance, and any other borrowings. By subtracting the value of these liabilities from the value of your assets, you’ll know the exact value of what you’ll be leaving behind.

List Down All Your Beneficiaries

You may think this is an obvious step that doesn’t require any expert to point it out, but you’ll be surprised. It’s important to think about all your beneficiaries to make sure everyone has a place in your will. Sometimes, you’ll find that you’ll want to add in more beneficiaries than those who become beneficiaries by default, such as an orphaned grandchild or a precious person who’s not related to you by blood. Pointing out your beneficiaries gives you a better place to start once you start dividing your assets among the list, where you get to specify how each of them will benefit from your assets.

Seek an Experienced Estate Lawyer

Planning for an estate is far from easy. The process is complicated and the paperwork is even more arduous, which makes the need for seeking estate planning specialists more pressing than ever. For starters, failing to create a proper will is equivalent to leaving no will at all, which directly translates into probate. An experienced estate lawyer will guide you through the necessary steps you’ll need to take to make sure your affairs are in proper order. Additionally, they’ll alert you to the best practices to follow during the process, which will help you in evading estate taxes and missing out on crucial steps.

Understand the Pros and Cons of Wills Vs. Living Trusts

Perhaps the most crucial part of your estate plan is deciding how your beneficiaries will have access to your assets. Generally, you have two options: create a will or open a living trust. Both options come with their own list of pros and cons, so make sure you understand the technicalities of each.

For instance, writing a will won’t necessarily circumvent probate, while opening a trust will require assigning a trustee to divide your assets as specified. Your best option is to seek the guidance of your estate lawyer to know what works better for the assets you’re leaving behind.

Create an Advance Healthcare Directive

You can’t neglect to prepare for the worst – if it should ever happen. If worse comes to worst, how would you like to be treated in the unfortunate scenario of getting mentally or physically incapacitated? Appointing a healthcare directive attorney helps you appoint a trustee who’ll take care of crucial medical decisions in this scenario. It also gives you the opportunity to state what your preferences are in such a situation.

Planning for an estate is difficult, complicated, and emotionally draining in most scenarios. There’s no need to add to the stress of creating an estate plan by deciding to do it all on your own; make sure to hire an attorney who can have your back and guide you through. Don’t leave room for any contingencies or issues, and the best way to avoid common family disputes is by taking care of everything in advance.


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