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Even if an estate plan is the last thing that you want to tackle, your family needs you to begin the process because they are the most affected. While you may need to put in some work and make some difficult decisions, it is all for the benefit of your family. Here are five tips that can help make the estate planning process easier for you and your family.
Your estate plan consists of a number of legally binding documents. You cannot sign and execute these documents if you are not of sound mind. For example, you cannot execute a will when you lack the capacity for it. There comes the point in time when it is too late to begin work on an estate plan, opening the possibility that you might die without a will. In this situation, no one has been given the legal power to make decisions for you when you can no longer do so.
The time to do an estate plan is now. We understand that estate plans are not the first thing that you want to think about, but it is vitally necessary. Although estate planning tips involves thinking about an unpleasant topic, the alternative is not having a plan when you need it. Then, your family will wish that you took the time now.
Before you put anything down on paper, you should have a series of conversations with your family members. They need to be familiar with the contents of your estate plan, so they can be ready to act if necessary when the time comes. In addition, you should also learn what is important to your family because an estate plan is intended to protect and take care of them.
Communication is the key to any successful estate plan. If your family is taken by surprise when they learn of something in the future, it can cause argument and conflict. Not only will that undermine the effectiveness of your estate plan, but it can also increase the chance of permanent strains on relationships, and your family may end up in court.
You often hear lawyers talk to you about the importance of avoiding probate. While some probate processes may pass without incident, they will add time and delay your loved ones from taking possession of your assets. There are some accounts that will pass automatically to beneficiaries upon the death of the account holder. These include investment accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance proceeds. All you need to provide is a death certificate to the institution that maintains the account. When accounts have designated beneficiaries, they will avoid the probate process altogether.
Not only must you have an estate plan, but it must be done correctly. You cannot have any mistakes or errors in the documents because it may keep your plan from being effective. Estate plans involve documents that have legal effect, and mistakes can render the documents void or mean that something other than your wishes on paper.
An experienced lawyer will sit down with you and learn about your goals and what is important to you. The lawyer will also explain available options that may meet your needs and how you can best achieve your goals. Finally, the lawyer will execute the paperwork and ensure that it is done correctly to spare your family difficulty in the future. Many people have suffered because they tried to save money by using standardized forms as part of a DIY estate plan without advice from a lawyer.
Just because your estate plan fits your circumstances today does not mean that it will still be helpful tomorrow. Your financial situation can be far different, or your life circumstances may have changed. Some people in your estate plan may no longer be in your family.
After a major life event, or every so often, you should sit down and review your estate plan. If your circumstances have changed, you can amend your estate plan to meet your current needs. If your estate plan is outdated, it will still be legally effective until it is changed.
The best way to begin thinking about your estate plan is to sit down with an attorney to learn about your options and begin the work. An attorney will help you get focused on what is important, and your family will get peace of mind knowing that there is a plan in place that is on paper and executed. Contact Cary Estate Planning at 919-924-4543 or send us a message online to start this vital conversation.