Top 5 Things to Know When Estate Planning

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Blog, Wills & Estate

estate-planning-tipsEstate planning is an unpleasant topic, but anyone who has been through it knows how difficult it is to settle an estate left without a will or other essential directives. Organizing and streamlining your own estate process is one of the most valuable gifts you can leave your beneficiaries. While estate planning is a complex topic, you can take your first steps by following Heritage Law’s top five tips below.

#1: Finances

Day-to-day banking comes naturally to most people, but what happens when you are no longer around to handle your finances? Debts, taxes and investments can all present their own problems to the people who stand to inherit your estate. Consider meeting with an accountant or a financial planner to determine the best path forward should the worst happen. Trusts and joint ownership can often lower taxes and fees that would impact an unplanned estate.

#2: Insurance

Vehicle and property insurance are everyday concerns for the general public, but life insurance is one of the most overlooked personal investments. Some may see it as a luxury or an unnecessary expense, but a comprehensive policy can significantly ease the difficulties of settling an estate. Pay off debts, leave a nest-egg to a loved one or create a charitable foundation– these are all things you can do for a relatively affordable premium.

#3: Inventories & lists

We all tend to keep a running tally of our belongings and personal values, but that may disappear if it is not documented somewhere. Regularly make inventories or lists of both your physical and non-physical assets, as well as any charitable contributions. These itemized records do not have to be comprehensive, but they should sketch out what you value, what it is worth and how it should be handled after your death.

#4: Choose representatives

Many people incorrectly assume that their estate will be distributed fairly to whoever they are closest to at the time of their passing. Unfortunately, without proper documentation, the law cannot be familiar with every change or evolution to each person’s relationships. So how do you handle this? Heritage Law suggests you have honest conversations with your loved ones, then choose the most responsible candidate (with their approval)– they will be your representative throughout the estate settlement process.

#5: Legal documents

You have probably heard of most of these documents already: living will or will, healthcare directive and power of attorney or guardianship. These are the bare minimum for most people’s estate plan to go smoothly– you will want to distribute copies to your executor(s), beneficiaries and any legal or financial representatives. Most importantly, you should review these documents every two years or whenever a major life change occurs (ie: marriage/divorce, birth/death, etc).

The above five tips are only a summary! Heritage Law advises you to work with a reputable legal professional whenever making these serious decisions. Feel free to contact or visit us today with any questions or concerns.