Maybe you’ve come to a point in your life where your kids are now adults, your parents are starting to depend on you a little more each year, or maybe you have lost a parent, and you realize how important and helpful it will be to your family to have your estate in order.
Whatever your reason for getting started, estate planning can seem unclear or overwhelming, but like any detailed process, it can begin with simple steps. As we outline below, you can start by sitting down with your partner to identify your priorities and ask yourselves some initial questions. With those priorities in mind, working with professionals – primarily an estate planning attorney, with the help of a financial advisor – will likely be much easier. Each estate plan is unique, but they all involve maintaining vital estate planning documents.
Knowing how all of the pieces in your estate plan come together can not only give you peace of mind; it can also lighten the load on your heirs at a time when they may be struggling to navigate the emotions that come with the loss of a loved one.
Estate planning involves more than going through the motion of creating a will. As your life stages change and your family matures and possibly expands, your estate planning documents need to keep up with these changes.
How to Start the Estate Planning Process
The best place to start your estate plans is by getting organized and conversing with your spouse/partner in advance of working with your estate attorney. These actions can speed up the estate planning process and facilitate the design of a plan that reflects what is important to you and build in some flexibility to accommodate life’s unknowns. Several decisions will need to be made as part of drafting your estate plan.
Estate planning questions to consider:
- Who will receive a child’s share of your estate if your child unspeakably dies before you—the remaining siblings or your deceased child’s heirs?
- What ages do you want your kids to gain unrestricted access to their inheritance? Do you want to give it in one lump sum or spread out the inheritance to allow them to learn about the money along the way?
- Do you setup the inheritance the same for all of your children? Or, might you want to customize how each child receives their share based on their unique abilities and needs?
Estate Planning Without Children Heirs
Families that do not have kids often have less clarity about how they would like the money to impact people or charities after they are gone. All the more reason to design a plan where you decide where your money goes versus allowing the state you live in to make those decisions for you.
Suppose you are considering making charitable gifts part of your estate plan. In that case, we have a 30-minute workshop that can help you develop your philanthropic plan and provide methods for choosing which causes or charities to support.
Getting Organized: An Extensive, Downloadable Guide
One way to get started is to pull together everything your attorney will need to understand and help you design your unique estate plan. We’ve put together a guide that can give you a jump start on preparing for your estate planning meeting. In the guide, you will find:
- A list of estate planning documents that may be used during an estate planning consultation
- A place to document:
- Your personal and chosen guardian’s information
- Children/beneficiary information
- Other professional advisors, like your CPA/Accountant and Attorneys
- Bank and investment accounts
- Personal effects
- Insurance policies
- And many more.
Creating an estate plan requires careful consideration of your family’s resources and plans for the future. Fortunately, this is not an undertaking you need to tackle alone. A financial advisor can help you collaborate with an estate planning attorney to develop a plan that fits your needs.
Investment Advisory services offered through Birchwood Financial Partners, Inc. an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.
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