10 important things to consider before creating your Estate Plan
Estate planning can be an overwhelming and seemingly daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing what to expect and what you can prepare before seeing your lawyer can help to alleviate some of this natural apprehension.
We’ve compiled a list of things to consider before meeting with your lawyer based on our experience, here are the top 10:
1. Do you have an existing will? If so, take it with you to the appointment with your lawyer. A new will means your old one is about to revoked. Your lawyer should be informed of the changes you want and why you are making them.
2. Your lawyer will want to know your marital status or if you are contemplating marriage. Many people don’t realize that their will is automatically revoked upon marriage. The same is not true upon divorce.
3. Give thought to who you will choose as an Executor of your will. The executor's job is central to the estate settlement process – from gathering assets, to paying bills, to distributing. After someone dies, the executor makes sure that the wishes stated in the deceased person's will are fulfilled. You will also want to appoint an Alternate Executor if your first choice is unable to act for some reason. This is an important job with many responsibilities so choose carefully.
4. If you have children, you may wish to choose and name guardians to care for your children after your passing. Ensure that you have spoken with your chosen guardian(s) and have their approval before adding them to your will.
5. Review your assets and liabilities. This will help you to appreciate the extent of your estate so you can appropriately make any gifts under your will. It will also help sort out which assets will pass under your will and what assets will pass outside of the estate by operation of law. It will also help sort out which assets will pass under your will and what assets will pass outside of the estate, such as jointly owned property or life insurance with a beneficiary.
6. Are there any specific items you wish to leave to someone under your will? Often antiques, jewelry and sentimental items are gifted under a will. Make sure to make these requests clear so that your assets are distributed as per your wishes.
7. Think about the people you want to benefit from your estate after you pass. If you don’t have a clear list of items to be gifted, it is important to know whom you would like to receive benefits from the settlement of your estate.
8. Are you supporting anyone during your lifetime that you should make provision for after your passing? This is an important thing to have outlined in your will to ensure the person continues to receive ongoing support once you are no longer to provide it.
9. Also, your lawyer will want to know if you are disinheriting someone such as a child. While disinheriting may seem straight forward if you have a strained or non-existent relationship with a child, even if you have a good relationship with your child or grandchild, you still may decide to disinherit them. This happens when, for example, a child has amassed a large estate of their own, and you'd like to split your estate among other beneficiaries who have a greater need for it.
10. Think about the kind of gifts you wish to make. Will you make outright gifts? outright gift is a donation of cash or other assets such as stock, real estate or personal property. Outright gifts include cash, securities (stocks and bonds), real estate, tangible personal property, matching gifts and gifts-in-kind. Will you provide for someone in a trust during their lifetime? A trust is an arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries until they are ready/eligible to access them.
If you have any questions about any of these considerations or would like to start working on your estate plan, we’re here to help!