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How to Get Started on an Estate Plan

If you have decided you need an estate plan, it’s important to understand what it is, what you want out of it and how it will best serve you. The first step is to speak with qualified attorneys skilled in probate, trust and estate administration. They can assist you in getting started with your estate plan.

Here are some tips.

1. Set a deadline: Set a concrete deadline so you don’t get sidelined by, well, life. Plan to get it done by your next birthday, anniversary, or the end of the year.
 
2. Get educated. Familiarize yourself with the basics of estate planning first, on your own time, before paying an attorney to educate you. Save that money for questions regarding your specific situation. If you find a local attorney that provides free seminars on estate planning, take advantage of them.
 
3. Organize your finances: Develop a personal balance sheet. Make a list or create a spreadsheet of your assets, market values, debts against them, resulting net values and how they have been titled. Gather all deeds and statements so your attorney can review them.
  
4. Make a list of people you want to leave your estate to: This can include spouses, children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, siblings, life partners and special friends. Include their names, dates of birth, addresses and their relation to you.
 
5. Consider how and when you want the listed people to inherit from you: You may assume treating all your children equally is the fairest way to go about things; however, this isn’t always true. One child may have gone above and beyond over the years to help you out. Maybe they took you in to live with them or are always there for you if you need anything, while other children do nothing to help out. Or, perhaps you have one child who is very successful and makes a million dollars a year, and another child that’s barely scraping by with a teacher’s salary. If you’re married, make sure your spouse has enough to live on for the rest of his or her life. Also, you may choose to distribute the full inheritance right away, or maybe you would decide to distribute it in installments. You may prefer to keep the inheritance in a trust so it is protected from divorce, creditors and irresponsible spending.
 
6. Decide on an executor (for a will) or a trustee (for a trust). This should be someone you trust, who will honor your wishes no matter what, and whose judgment you respect. If no one comes to mind, you could designate a professional, such as an attorney, to be your trustee or executor.
 
7. Decide on who will make health care decisions for you: If you are unable at some point in the future to make sound healthcare decisions for yourself, you will need to designate someone to do that on your behalf. 

8. Hire an attorney: An experienced estate planning attorney has vast experience in drafting documents properly and knows how to make your plan work for you, in the manner you want. They understand the legal requirements in your particular state, and they are far less likely than you to make a simple mistake or omission, which can have long-lasting complications.

Contact Sayer, Regan & Thayer LLP

If you need assistance getting started on an estate plan, contact us toll free at 866-378-5836 or 401-324-9915 for a free consultation.


These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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