A common question for estate planning attorney on Cape Cod and Plymouth is: How do I start my estate plan? First, congratulate yourself on taking a first step! The decision to start an estate plan is critical for all families, but it can also be a challenge.
Before your first meeting, put together a list of your most significant assets and liabilities. This will give Attorney McManus a starting point to determine your net worth, which is important for calculating estate tax exposure and identify unrealized capital gain. Next, try to decide who you might want to inherit your assets when you pass away, and if you want to specify how those beneficiaries might use the assets. Finally, try to decide who you want to make decisions for you if you are not well, and who might settle your estate when you pass on.
In many cases, the greatest impediment families face initially is discussing death, especially the deaths of family members. Forbes recent article entitled Estate Planning 101: Tackling Your Estate Plan suggests several life events that will trigger the need to create an estate plan for your family or business. The article also reminds us that it’s important to think about what might happen to you or someone in your family, in the event of a substantial life change.
Here are some life events that can necessitate the need for an estate plan and a visit with your attorney:
- A marriage;
- The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- The start of a new business
- A significant increase in net worth
- Changes in the tax laws
- The death of a spouse or family member
- Receiving an inheritance
- A divorce
- The sale of a business or property
There is no exact standard for when you should start creating your estate plan, but if any of these events happen to you or your family, it would be wise to start the conversation. While planning your estate may feel overwhelming, laborious, or expensive, not having a plan can be financially devastating, and can add stress to the situation.
Estate planning is a continuous process that should be tracked and reviewed annually. Let’s look at the steps for creating an estate plan:
Understand the Basics. First, learn the basics of estate planning and understand how the gift and estate tax laws may have an effect on your assets.
Identify Your Objectives. Map out your objectives and select possible guardians, executors, trustees, heirs and other details with your attorney. You should also draft a personal financial statement, detailing a breakdown of your assets and liabilities.
Look at Your Insurance. Third, you should review what you have for life insurance to be certain that it’s aligned with and structured appropriately for your objectives. You may need to look into life insurance as a way to protect your family and income, if you haven’t done so already.
Finalize the Design Of Your Estate Plan. Finalize your estate planning design with the help of your estate planning attorney. Review your fiduciaries and your will, powers of attorney, trusts, healthcare proxy and a living will.
Sign your Documents. Next, you need to sign the documents.
Visit Your Plan Periodically. Finally, review your plan every few years or when there is a life event in your family.
Now that you have the basics under your belt, it should feel easier to address this important task.
Reference: Forbes (March 11, 2020) Estate Planning 101: Tackling Your Estate Plan