Creating an estate plan is an oversight for many people. Others avoid it simply because of the difficulties it presents over thinking about death – either our own or those of family members. A recent survey shows that only 42% of American adults currently have a will or living trust in place.
Estate planning can be an emotional experience, and it can also be complicated. While consulting an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial to create a comprehensive plan, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of what’s involved in the process.
When do you need an estate plan in place?
While the timing will be different for everyone, several life events trigger the need to create or revise an estate plan to protect a family or business, including:
- Getting married
- Birth of a child or grandchild
- Starting a new business venture
- A significant increase in a person’s net worth
- Changes to tax laws
- Death of a spouse or family member
- Selling a business or property
Steps for creating an estate plan
If any of these scenarios exist or are on the horizon, it’s likely time to start the conversation. So, what is involved? Here are seven steps to follow:
- Learn the basics of estate planning and how federal and state gift and estate taxes could affect your assets.
- Complete a personal financial statement and outline your objectives – such as selecting potential fiduciaries, including guardians, executors, heirs and trust structures.
- Review existing life insurance and make sure it fits your objectives and adequately protects your family and income.
- Finalize a plan that includes fiduciaries and legal structures, such as wills, trusts and health care proxy.
- Review your plan with your lawyer and make any necessary changes.
- Finalize and formally execute the document.
- Review your plan each year and update as necessary when life events happen, such as marriages, divorces and retirement.
Create peace of mind and protect your family’s future
Educating yourself about the procedures can remove much of the apprehension over discussing an estate plan. Your attorney will guide you through the process of creating a plan that meets you and your family’s needs, providing security for the future.