What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a plan that you create to specify what happens to your property and other assets after your death. Having an estate plan ensures that your loved ones will know how you want your affairs handled, which can eliminate confusion and prevent family disagreements. Without an estate plan, you will have no say in how your affairs are handled, and important decisions may be left in the hands of the court.
5 Estate Planning Tips
Below are five things you will need to do to create an estate plan.
- Hire an Estate Planning Attorney: An estate planning attorney can help you create an estate plan that upholds your wishes, protects your surviving beneficiaries, and prevents miscommunications or disagreements over how your assets should be distributed. Your attorney can help you with your will, trust, or power of attorney.
- Create a Will: A will is a legal document that specifies how you would like your assets distributed after your death. Any property left through your will must go through probate court before your assets can be transferred to the appropriate people. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, and it could also provide an opportunity for third parties to contest your will. If you have minor children, you should include a guardianship designation in your will. This allows you to decide who will raise your children if you die. If you don’t include this designation, someone else will make the decision for you.
- Create a Trust: A trust is used to transfer your assets with the assistance of a trustee whom you choose. Having a trust allows your surviving beneficiaries to have immediate access to your assets and avoid probate court and the accompanying court fees and attorney fees.
- Include a Power of Attorney: A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to designate someone to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions. A general POA includes matters, such as handling your financial affairs, purchasing or selling real estate, and financial transactions. A Medical POA designates the person who will make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and can’t make those decisions.
- Write a Letter of Intent: A letter of intent is a letter that you leave for your executor or beneficiary to explain how you want a particular asset distributed when you die or if you are incapacitated. You can also use this letter to provide funeral information or special requests. This letter is not a legal document, but it’s still important because it will let a probate judge know your wishes in case your will is contested or deemed invalid.
The death of a loved one can have a devastating effect on families, and misunderstandings and confusion about how to handle your affairs would only create more problems. By creating an estate plan, you can make sure your assets are distributed, affairs are handled, and loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes.
Author’s Bio: Steve Howards
Steve has been writing legal-centric articles for several years now. He started working with the personal injury attorney law firm Herrig & Vogt in 2019 as the Content Marketing Manager, which has allowed him to expand on his writing in personal injury, family law, and much more. Steve strives to offer the public advice on various laws covering a variety of practices.