Like most things in life, the hardest part of establishing an estate plan is getting started. Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll discover that what may seem like an overwhelming task is relatively straightforward, even if delicate handling of details is essential. The following four steps will get you on your way.
First, take stock. Definitionally, everything you own is considered your estate. In order to protect it, you first need to have a clear sense of what it is.
• List the value of your home and other real estate. In addition, list the value of cars, jewelry, artwork, and all other physical assets.
• Compile account statements, including from your bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts.
• Note the locations of any safety deposit boxes and safes.
• List all insurance policies alongside their cash value and death benefits.
• List all debt, including mortgages and lines of credit.
Ask us for a copy of our helpful Personal and Financial Information worksheet before attending your initial appointment—it’s designed to help you keep track of these assets!
Second, draft. Once you’ve taken stock of what constitutes your estate, you are nearly ready to meet with an estate planning attorney. In preparation, consider the following questions about how to settle your affairs.
• Who will inherit your assets and in what proportion?
• If you have children who are still minors, who will care for them?
• How much should you set aside for their care and education?
• In the event that you become incapacitated, who will manage your financial affairs?
• Who will take on the responsibility of distributing your assets?
Third, enact. Set a meeting with an estate planning attorney to draft your will, medical and financial powers of attorney, and trust documents. A few tips to keep in mind are as follows.
• Any trust you set up must be properly funded. In the absence of proper funds, agreements won’t take effect and assets may not pass to beneficiaries as intended.
• Take a second glance at your beneficiaries and update as needed.
• Ensure all assets included in your trust are retitled to reflect this ownership change and be sure to keep copies of the relevant documents.
Fourth, update regularly.
• Review beneficiary designations on a yearly basis to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
• Should a major life event occur, such as a death in the family, a divorce, or the arrival of a new child, be sure to update your estate plan.
With all of this in mind, you are ready to get started! Contact Deliberato Law Center for a free consultation today. Our team of estate planning attorneys are known as some of the most compassionate in the Cleveland area. We are here and ready to help you protect everything you have worked a lifetime to accrue.