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Estate Planning Basics

In this article, the estate planning attorneys at Rodier Family Law lay out the steps individuals should take to ensure that in the event of your passing, your family is provided with instructions on the division of your estate.

The creation of an estate plan is not generally the first item on anyone’s to-do list. However, a well-crafted estate plan will ensure that your loved ones carry out your wishes for your property and possessions once you are no longer able to do so for yourself and after you are gone. Below are the first steps you should take when beginning to draft your estate plan.

A Will

Create a will and select the person you wish to be the executor of your estate, as well as his or her back-up, in the event that upon your death the executor is incapacitated or has already passed. If you have minor children, your will is the document in which you should outline who will take guardianship responsibilities of your children. You should have any possessions that you might consider intellectual property (i.e. music you have written, personal memoirs or essays, etc.) appraised ahead of time to ensure that your estate is valued accurately. Finally, outline how you would like your possessions to be divided.

A Living Trust

If it fits into your estate plan, contemplate the establishment of a living trust. If you choose to create one, you will have the ability to appoint a trustee, who will maintain control over the distribution of the assets within that trust until an established date until certain conditions have been met. Living trusts are excellent ways of preventing anyone from altering your estate plan after it has been put in place.

A Financial Plan

Ensure that your finances are prepared for the future. Your financial accounts may require that you fill out a form releasing their contents to your estate executor or heirs upon your death. If you are concerned that the integrity of your plan may be compromised, you may also want to consider adding a clause to either your will or trust that prevents heirs attempting to contest the contents of your estate plan from receiving their inheritance.

A Power of Attorney

A Durable General Power of Attorney allows you to select individuals to manage your property and accounts if you are no longer able to manage your own affairs. You can also designate who you would like to have appointed as a guardian of your property if the court ever ordered someone to be responsible for your property if you become incapacitated.

A Medical Directive

Build out the most important medical documents in your estate plan: Advanced Health Directives and a Living Will. These documents will contain vital instructions on what healthcare plan you would prefer in case you are no longer able to advocate for yourself. These documents will help your family to determine the best course of care for you if you cannot make your own decisions.

A Navigation Key

Draw up a map for the executor of your estate to ensure that they are easily able to find everything they need to carry out your wishes. Include information such as usernames and passwords for online accounts, the account numbers for your various insurance policies and bank accounts, and the location of electronic devices that might provide more important information.

An Experienced Lawyer

Lastly, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. The process of creating and maintaining a strong estate plan is difficult and complicated. Hiring an attorney with years of experience assisting people like you with the security and planning of their estates is an excellent way to ensure that your estate plan is as detailed and useful as possible. For assistance with creating your estate plan, contact Rodier Family Law today.