5 Key Decisions of Estate Planning

by | Jun 16, 2017 | Personal Finance 101

No one wants to think about what happens when you’re no longer here — especially if you’re younger, still have kids at home and are in the process of building your career. You might think estate planning is only for older people who are closer to the end of their lives, but it’s important for younger families to plan ahead for a worst-case scenario.

What if you just ignore estate planning? The problem with neglecting to plan for your family’s future in any situation is that tragedy will be even worse if the remaining family members have to navigate the waters of probate.

Probate, or the official proving of a will in court, is made more challenging if there’s no will or estate planning at all. Your family may not have access to your assets until everything is straightened out — which can take months. With that in mind, here are five ways you can plan ahead and avoid added stress if the worst does happen.

  1. Make decisions about your assets. Who will get what? Make these big decisions before you engage a lawyer, so you don’t have to waste time during in-office meetings.
  2. Hire an attorney. Estate planning isn’t complicated with a professional who knows the ins and outs, but it’s not a DIY endeavor. Make a mistake when doing it yourself, and you won’t be able to fix it when it matters — after you die. Most estate lawyers will let you know the cost before you start the process.
  3. Choose between a revocable living trust or a will. A will has to go through probate, while a trust can be administered immediately by whomever you designate in your absence. The issue with a trust is that you have to re-title your assets — your house, your financial accounts, any valuables like jewelry — in the name of the trust. There aren’t tax consequences for structuring it this way, but it can be a little tricky. Your attorney can help you manage either option.
  4. Select someone to act as a healthcare power of attorney. If you’re very ill and can’t make your decisions, you’ll want to have someone you trust to make important choices about your care. (It’s also a great plan to have a living will that explains your preferences about how far you want to go to save your life. Your attorney can help you draft this as well.)
  5. Describe your funeral or memorial service preferences. Write down any important thoughts you have and make sure they are readily available for a loved one. If you store your funeral preferences with your will, it may happen that it won’t be seen right away.

Take the time now, no matter what your age or life stage, to plan your estate. It can save a lot of additional grief for your loved ones and make some of their decisions easier in the event of your death. Call us today to start the process of financial planning and decision making — don’t put it off. If something were to happen, your loved ones would be grateful.