While it’s a difficult topic for many people to think about, estate planning is a critical event designed to finalize how life will be carried out after your death. Tomorrow is never promised, and unexpected death can leave your loved ones scrambling to piece together your final wishes. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, estate planning can give you peace of mind knowing that under the law, your affairs are in order. While the prospect of estate planning may seem daunting, it can be broken down into a few simple steps:
- The first estate planning meeting: The first step is to sit with an estate planning attorney to discuss your goals and objectives. Many people find this to be the most difficult piece of the process, but it’s essential to be honest about your wishes. The attorney will then be able to provide you with options that fit your unique situation. Questions you can expect to answer during the first meeting include:
- Who do you want to receive your assets after you die?
- Do you have any specific instructions on how you want your assets to be used?
- Who do you want to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so?
- Who do you want to be your executor?
- Drafting documents: Once you’ve decided on your estate planning goals, the next step is to draft the necessary documents. This will likely include a will, which outlines how you want your assets to be distributed. You may also need to create trusts, which can help minimize taxes and protect assets. Other common estate planning documents include advance directives, which designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so, and powers of attorney, which allow someone to manage your finances if you’re unable to do so.
- Document review: Once all the necessary documents have been drafted, it’s important to review them with your attorney to ensure everything is in order. This is also a good time to ensure that your loved ones know your wishes and where to find your estate planning documents.
- Sign documents: After your documents have been reviewed and revised as necessary, the final step is to sign them. Some of these documents will need to be notarized, and others may need to be witnessed. Once they’re signed, they’ll become legally binding, so it’s important to be sure that you’re comfortable with all terms before you sign.
- Making document modifications: Once your documents have been signed, they can still be modified as needed. For example, if you enter a new marriage or have children, you may need to update your will to ensure any new assets or individuals in your life are now accounted for. It’s normal for estate plans to evolve over time, so don’t hesitate to make changes as needed.
- Estate administration: The final step is to choose who will administer your estate after you die. This person, known as the executor, will be responsible for ensuring that everything is distributed as intended. They will also bear the responsibility for handling any taxes or debts that must be paid out of the estate. Some tips for choosing an executor:
- Pick someone you trust implicitly and who is organized and detail-oriented.
- Avoid choosing someone who is likely to dispute your wishes or may have their own agenda.
- Choose someone close by so they can easily handle the administrative duties.
With these steps, you can create a comprehensive estate plan that will give you peace of mind knowing that everyone and everything that you care deeply about will be taken care of after you’re gone.
Tips For Estate Planning
Every family is different, and therefore every estate plan will be different. However, some general tips can help you create a sound estate plan:
- Get professional help: While you can do your own estate planning, it’s always a good idea to get professional help to ensure everything is done correctly. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure that all of your bases are covered.
- Be honest about your wishes: It’s important to be honest with yourself and your loved ones about your desires for your estate. This can be a challenging conversation to have, especially if there are significant disputes about how you want your estate handled. However, it’s helpful to make sure that everyone is on the same page, so there are no surprises in the future.
- Be specific: When drafting your documents, be as specific as possible about your wishes. This helps to avoid any confusion or disputes down the road that could cause unnecessary delays.
- Update your documents regularly: It’s important to review and update your estate planning documents on a regular basis. This will ensure that they reflect any changes in your life or in the law.
- Get everyone on board: Make sure your loved ones know your wishes and where to find your estate planning documents. It can be helpful to appoint someone to handle your estate, so there’s no confusion about who is supposed to do what.
- Take your time: Estate planning can be a complex process, so it’s essential to take your time and ensure everything is done correctly. Rushing through the process can lead to mistakes being made, so it’s better to take your time and get it right.
Estate Planning for Robert G. Petrovich, Attorney at Law
Estate planning can be a complex process, but it’s important to have a plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones. These steps can help you get started, but connecting with a professional can ensure that everything is compliant.
At Robert G. Petrovich, Attorney at Law, we understand how important it is to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process with an intense focus on detail and customer service. We treat each estate planning client with the compassion and respect they deserve while providing the high-quality legal services we would want for ourselves. At the end of the process, our goal is to ensure that your estate plan reflects your unique wishes and gives you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.