Everyone over the age of 18 needs an estate plan and these five estate planning tips will help you to move forward with your own estate planning.
1. Find an experienced estate planning attorney who actually focuses on estate planning. Be sure it’s a main area of concentration for the attorney. Do not try to do your own estate planning. Doing your own planning is likely to cost you more in the long run than the professional fees.
2. Disclose all of your personal and financial information to your estate planning attorney. Be forthcoming in answering your estate planning attorney’s questions even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Most people aren’t accustomed to talking about disability, death, or their personal finances. However, your estate planning attorney needs to have these conversations with you to design and implement an estate plan that is a good fit for you.
3. Make hard decisions. Some people get “stuck” because they don’t want to make hard decisions such as who to name as a guardian of their minor children. We all want to raise our own children and thinking about someone stepping into that role is difficult, but necessary. Remember that you can change your mind later on — the legal documents in a basic estate plan are revocable and amendable.
4. Update your estate plan every three to five years, or earlier if you have a major life change. Your personal goals, your family, and your finances change as life unfolds. The law and estate planning strategies also change. Estate planning is not a one-time affair; it is a process. Major life changes could include marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, children growing up, and accumulating or dispersing of large assets such as selling a house or a business.
5. Talk to your loved ones. Let your loved ones know that you have done your estate planning. This will give them peace of mind, knowing that you have taken care of business. Be sure to also let your loved ones know where you have stored your estate planning documents, such as in your fire safe or on the shelf in your home office. They’ll need a list of your assets, important documents, and computer passwords.
If you have questions about these estate planning tips or estate planning in general, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.