When you first begin to plan your estate, you may feel a little overwhelmed at all the possibilities. But take a deep breath and relax… it’s easier than you think to get started.
Basic estate planning can cover most concerns of a typical estate. You can address both after death issues and protection in the event of disability with a basic plan. Anything beyond this is considered Advanced Estate Planning.
During the basic estate planning process, you have three decisions to make: who will inherit your stuff, who will oversee the process and what type of estate planning documents you want to use to accomplish your goals.
The best way to get started is to make a comprehensive list of all estate holdings and another list with all beneficiaries you wish to include in your plan. From these lists you will decide who will get what. You can even designate partial ownerships if you wish.
Next, with the help of your attorney, you can plan what type of estate documents you will use to meet your estate needs. You can leave estate assets to your heirs in either a Last Will and Testament or you can use a Trust. Which one is right for you will depend upon your needs. A trust for example, is typically a better choice when there are minor children or disabled dependents involved, or if you don’t want your loved ones to go through probate.
While you are creating your estate documents you will also need to name a personal representative or trustee depending on the type of document you have chosen. A personal representative, or estate executor, can be appointed in your Will and will help to settle your estate during the probate process. A trustee will not only care for your Trust after your death but will also make Trust decisions if you should be declared mentally disabled. You will also have to name a representative for other estate documents such as a Power of Attorney.
Once you have completed your basic estate plan, your attorney can advise if you should use additional planning tools for issues such as potentially high estate taxes, a disabled heir, or asset protection.