Are you one of the millions of Americans who has yet to create an estate plan? If so, you are not alone. Surveys tell us that although most people understand the need to have an estate plan in place, over half of all Americans do not have one. People offer a number of explanations for their lack of an estate plan, most of which boil down to not knowing how or where to start with their estate plan. The Lincolnshire estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law, Ltd. have seen first-hand the confusion that follows when someone becomes incapacitated or dies and there is no estate plan in place. To prevent that from happening to you, we hope you will use the following tips for getting started on your estate plan.
Defining Your Goals
A well drafted estate plan can – and should – accomplish much more than just providing a framework by which your estate assets are distributed when you are gone. Your estate plan can also help grow and protect those assets throughout the course of your lifetime as well as plan for things such as the possibility of your incapacity or your need for long-term care down the road. Before you actually sit down with an estate planning attorney, take some time to define your estate planning goals. Every estate plan is as unique as the individual creating the plan; however, some common estate planning goals you may wish to include in your plan include:
- Incapacity planning
- Probate avoidance
- Retirement planning
- Business succession planning
- Tax avoidance
- Special needs planning
- Medicaid planning
Take Stock of Your Estate
One reason people frequently put off estate planning is that they are under the impression that they do not have a large enough estate to bother with an estate plan. Almost everyone, however, has some estate assets that are meaningful to them. Take the time to make a list of all your assets, including things such as real and personal property, investments and retirement plans, and even things such as an inheritance you will likely receive at some point down the road. If you are the parent of a minor child, your child is your most important “asset” and should be reason enough to have an estate plan in place. When making your list, include as much identifying information about each asset as possible. When you are finished with your assets, do the same thing with your debts and liabilities.
Choose Fiduciary Roles
Every estate plan has at least one fiduciary role, that of the Executor of a Last Will and Testament or the Trustee of a trust agreement. Your plan may have several fiduciary roles in it. One of the most common mistakes people make when creating an estate plan is to appoint a spouse, friend, or family member to a fiduciary role without taking the time to decide if that person is actually the best person for the job. To ensure that you do not make that mistake, do not choose your fiduciary roles until you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with the duties and responsibilities of the role and then spent some time contemplating who is best suited for the position.
Do Not Make the DIY Mistake
Given how easy it is to find legal forms on the internet these days, it can be tempting to try and go the “Do It Yourself” route with your estate plan under the (mistaken) belief that it will save you time and money. In reality, the errors and omissions that are prevalent in DIY estate planning forms typically result in time consuming, and costly, litigation when it comes to probating an estate. In the end, the small amount of time and money you may save yourself by going the DIY route will likely cost your loved ones a considerable amount of time and money down the road.
Contact Lincolnshire Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about getting started on your estate plan, contact the experienced Lincolnshire estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.