6 Important Estate Planning Steps
Studies tell us that over half of the adults in the United States do not have an estate plan in place despite acknowledging the need for one. Often, the explanation for this dichotomy is the simple fact that people do not know how to begin creating an estate plan. It can seem like a daunting and intimidating undertaking. The reality, however, is that creating a basic estate plan can be accomplish relatively easily and economically. If you have yet to create an estate plan, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law offer six important estate planning steps to help get you started.
- Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Going the “Do-It-Yourself” route should not be an option. You can find a wide range of estate planning “fill-in-the-blanks” forms on the internet, but the odds are high that the form you use will have significant errors and/or omissions that could ultimately cost your loved ones a significant amount of time and money. Instead of risking the success of your plan by going the DIY route, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
- Define your goals. Spend some time to considering what you need to accomplish and what you want to include in your estate plan. People typically focus on the distribution of their estate assets when they think about estate planning. While this is certainly one aspect of an estate plan, a comprehensive estate plan can accomplish much more than that. For example, if you have minor children, protecting their inheritance until they reach the age of majority should be an important part of your plan. Likewise, if you don’t want your loved ones to have to deal with a lengthy probate of your estate, probate avoidance should be one of your estate planning goals.
- Assess your assets and liabilities. You probably have a decent idea of what large and/or valuable assets you own; however, for the purpose of creating an estate plan you should make a detailed list, including current value, location, and identifying information (account number, registration number, lot number etc.) Make the same list for your liabilities that you made for your assets.
- Consider your beneficiaries. Most of your beneficiaries will be obvious, such as your children, but there may be a few less obvious beneficiaries on the list. Your pet, your favorite niece, a best friend, or a charity might be included once you give it some thought.
- Choose the right fiduciaries. One of the most common and potentially damaging mistakes people make when creating an estate plan is failing to take the time necessary to choose the right person for fiduciary roles within the plan. If you create a trust, for example, do not simply appoint a spouse or friend as the Trustee because you “trust” them. The role of Trustee is a complex job that requires a degree of financial and legal knowledge and experience to perform well. Appointing the right person will contribute to the success of your overall estate plan while appointing the wrong person could cause your estate plan to fail.
- Review and revise your plan. Among the most common mistakes people make when it comes to estate planning is failing to review and revise the plan they create. An out-of-date estate plan can be every bit as problematic as the complete absence of a plan. To ensure that your plan covers all your current needs, make sure to review the plan every few years as well as when a life event, such as divorce, death of a fiduciary, or children reaching adulthood, calls for a revision.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you are ready to get started on your estate plan, or to update an existing plan, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.