Estate Planning: How to Get Started

estate planning process

Creating an estate plan is a lot like building wealth or training to run a marathon: it takes some time and a very intentional approach. If you’re like most people, you know that you should develop an estate plan, but you might not be sure where or how to start. Don’t worry – you’re not alone in this! Fortunately, developing an estate plan isn’t nearly as difficult as it may seem. Here’s your step-by-step guide to creating a bulletproof estate plan of your own.

4 Steps for Smart Estate Planning

Whether you’re wondering about property valuations or taxes, these four tips will help you create an estate plan you’re proud of.

  1. Sign Your Will

While nobody wants to think about a will, having one is an essential part of estate planning.

Because a will lines out what you’ll do with your assets when you pass, it’s the foundational piece of your estate plan. In the event that you die without a will, your property will be divided among your survivors based on the laws of intestacy in your state.

Because of this, creating a will is really the only sure-fire way to ensure your assets are distributed the way you want them to be. Despite this, only 42% of U.S. adults have a will.

With this in mind, visit an attorney and create and sign a will – first thing. If you’re planning to pass anything along to minor children, consider establishing a trust for their benefit, complete with a trustee to help control the allocation of assets.

  1. Name Your Beneficiaries

Even once you’ve signed your will, you need to know that not all of your assets will pass through it. This is because some of your property will be immune to the probate process. These assets include your IRA, 401(k), and similar policies, which will, instead, pass to beneficiaries that you designate.

As you work with an attorney on your estate plan, be sure to focus on filling out beneficiary forms. You may find that beneficiary forms you previously filled out are now outdated, or that you’d prefer someone else be your beneficiary.

  1. Plan for Estate Taxes

Don’t let estate taxes come as a nasty surprise. Instead, meet with your attorney to understand federal estate tax and gift tax exemptions, and how they may affect you and your assets. This is a critical part of estate planning, and cannot be overlooked.

  1. Understand Property Valuations

Understand fully what you’re leaving to survivors by having a professional examine your property valuations and draw up a plan for dispersal. These assets may have a place in a durable power of attorney, or your will, depending on which is most applicable. Be sure to talk to your attorney about these issues.

Estate Planning – the Smart Way

Nobody likes thinking about end-of-life preparations, but ignoring them will only cause stress down the road. Prepare yourself and your family with these four smart estate planning tips. Need additional help? Contact our team for assistance with property valuations and more!