Estate planning is a way to save taxes, prevent family disputes, take care of your dependents, and ensure that you will be cared for if you become incapacitated. Even if you don’t think of yourself as someone wealthy enough to qualify as having an estate, any property you have when you die will be subject to probate and an estate tax—unless you carefully enact an estate plan.
With the help of an estate planning attorney, you’ll be able to create a series of documents that ensures your wishes will be carried out both during your lifetime and after your death.
Important Steps in Estate Planning
- Write a will. The very first document you should create is a will. If you die without a will, your property will be distributed through state intestacy laws, which could allow someone to inherit your estate that you have never met before.
- Write your advance healthcare directives. How would you like your health care managed if you’re unable to make health care decisions yourself? This document will help your loved ones respect your wishes in the case of incapacitation.
- Put property in trust. One way to prevent your property from going through probate is to avoid having any property in your name when you die. This can be done by putting your assets in a living trust. A living trust allows you to control the assets, and when you die the assets will automatically transfer to your beneficiaries.
- Assign powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows a trusted person to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. You can make the provisions as broad or as limited as you like.
- Appoint a health care proxy. A health care proxy is a trusted person that you appoint to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
- Make provisions for your minor children. If you leave behind minor children, who will take care of them? You’ll want to address both guardianship issues as well as trustees who can help supervise their inheritance.
- Designate beneficiaries. Assign beneficiaries to your stocks, bonds, bank accounts, retirement accounts and trusts. Identifying beneficiaries will help to avoid probate.
- Make funeral arrangements. Be sure to make funeral arrangements as well as expressing your wishes for how you would like your remains cared for.
- Collect and store all your important financial documents. Finally, although this isn’t a legal part of the estate planning process, you should collect all of your important financial and estate planning documents in one place, including the information for bank accounts, credit cards, loan documents, deeds to your home, insurance policies and anything else that your heirs will need to deal with upon your passing.
With advance planning, your loved ones will be in good shape to deal with your estate, even in their time of grief.
When you’re ready to make an estate plan, Baker Law Group P.C. would appreciate your call and offer a free initial consultation. Our years of experience in estate planning and elder law can help you and your family to make sure you are well cared-for, no matter what life brings.