How to start Estate Planning

Estate Planning may seem daunting, expensive, and time consuming. But really, it's not. Especially when compared to other important life tasks. Estate planning is about making decisions and creating documents. These decisions and documents will provide for, and protect, you and your loved ones.

You know you should create a Will or Trust, have a Power of Attorney, or Medical Patient Advocate . . . but you have no idea where to begin.

Estate planning is about making decisions. First, decide that you need an estate plan. Next, decide to make the time to consult with an attorney. That consultation should be free and should last 20 or 30 minutes over the phone or in person.

Decide that you need an estate plan.

When you decide that it's time to create an Estate Plan and consult with an attorney, you will have lots of decisions to make. Here are some examples:

1. Who gets your assets when you pass away?

2. Who will take care of your minor children and pets when you pass away?

3. Who will handle your finances if you are incapacitated?

4. Who will make medical decisions if you are incapacitated?

5. Who will be the executor of your Will after you pass away?

6. Who will administer your Trust during your incapacity or after you pass away?

7. Will assets be left to children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or all of the above?

8. Will assets be left to a friend, church, charity, school or university?

9. How to protect government benefits for a special needs child?

Decide to Communicate with your loved ones.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is preparation and communication. Talk to your family. Tell them what you want and why you want it. They may not agree, they may be upset, but they will respect and love you for your decisions.

Better to say it now, when you can, then to leave uncertainty and resentment when you are gone. Communicating your wishes and discussing your reasoning will likely bring you closer to your loved ones.

Talking to parents can be more difficult that talking to your children. Parents care for their children, but perhaps now is the time for the children to help care for the parents. Help your parents understand the importance of estate planning.

Decide to Hire the Best Estate Planning Attorney.

You want to hire the best attorney. The best attorneys are usually the most expensive. This is because time is limited and the best are busy. The best attorneys communicate well, take time to understand your family dynamics and wishes, explain the law, give you many options to consider and think about, and recommend the best plan for you and your family.

You and your family are unique. You and your family's uniqueness will be reflected in your estate plan. Even though every estate plan is unique, the documents utilized to accomplish your goals remain the same. Your primary goal will likely be to protect and provide for yourself and your loved ones. This is important and you should take it seriously. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and consult with an attorney.

Here are the documents an estate planning attorney can draft for your estate plan:

Will - a document that indicates who will receive assets titled in your name after you pass away, appoints an executor, and designates a guardian and conservator for your minor children. All Wills must be administered in probate court.

Trust - a document that can provide for you during your lifetime, and/or distribute your assets to your beneficiaries during your lifetime and after you pass away. A Trust does not have to be administered in probate court.

Power of Attorney - a document that designates a person to make legal and/or financial decisions on your behalf.

Patient Advocate (Health Care Power of Attorney) - a document that designates a person to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Beneficiary Designations - a form that designates who will receive a particular asset upon your passing. A form that you sign and that your bank, life insurance company, financial institution will retain. An attorney is not needed to draft the form, but the designation you make could have significant estate planning consequences and it is recommended that you seek attorney advice as to your designation and wishes.

Decide to revise the plan, when needed.

Your estate planning foundation is set! You will likely need to review your plan as life changes. When you have changes in wealth, family dynamics, and assets owned, decide to re-visit your estate plan. As life changes your plan may change. Call your attorney and ask for that free consultation . . . again.

Decide to Prepare and Protect your loved ones.

If you need help making these decisions and creating an Estate Plan please call Nick Daniels directly at 586-668-1229.