Hopefully, you are aware of the importance of having an estate plan in place. Despite that awareness, you may have put off creating your plan. Like many people, the concept of estate planning may be a bit intimidating given the importance of the final product and the fact that you are unfamiliar with many of the concepts and strategies. Because we understand that, the Vernon Hills estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law Ltd have made estate planning more user-friendly by creating the following 10 steps to creating an estate plan.
- Define your goals. A comprehensive estate plan should accomplish more than just deciding how your estate assets are distributed after your death. A well thought out estate plan also includes additional goals such as incapacity planning, probate avoidance, and funeral and burial planning. Take some time to decide what your most important estate planning goals are at this point in your life so that your plan can be tailored to meet those goals.
- Decide on beneficiaries. Most beneficiaries will be obvious, such as your spouse and children, but you may also want to include less obvious choices as well, such as a charity, the family pet, or a favorite niece or nephew.
- List assets and liabilities. You may have a fairly good idea of what your net worth is; however, for the purpose of estate planning, you need to know the details of your estate assets and liabilities. Make a list of both, including a description of each asset/liability, current value/debt, and additional information such as location or account numbers to make it easier to identify.
- Choose fiduciaries. This is where many people make a mistake when creating their estate plan. Throughout your estate plan you will have the opportunity to appoint fiduciaries, such as your Executor or the Trustee of a trust. Don’t just appoint a spouse, adult child, or friend without taking the time to consider if he/she is really the best person for the job.
- Consider specific bequests. Do you own family heirlooms or sentimental items? If so, write down any specific bequests you may wish to make of those items.
- Consult with an estate planning attorney. In today’s electronic age it is easy to find DIY estate planning documents online. Resist the temptation to depend on them as you will almost certainly create a nightmare for your loved ones that could end in costly, and time consuming litigation after you are gone. Instead, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.
- Decide on your primary distribution method. A Last Will and Testament is not the only option for your primary estate planning document. Many people choose to use a trust instead for many reasons, including the fact that trust assets bypass the probate process altogether.
- Draft and execute documents. Once your estate planning attorney has all your estate plan documents ready you will need to execute them properly so that they are valid.
- Share and safeguard your plan. Whether or not you share the details of your estate plan is a highly personal decision. Either way, however, you need to safeguard your estate planning documents. A fire-proof safe is a good choice. You should definitely give the Executor of your estate a copy of your Will and/or trust so that he/she does not have to waste precious time and energy looking for them when the time comes.
- Review and revise your plan. Once your estate plan is in place, do not forget to review and revise that plan as a matter of routine every three to five years and anytime a major life event calls for a review and revision.
Contact Vernon Hills Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information, please download out FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning, or you are ready to get started on your plan, contact the experienced Vernon Hills estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.