Okay, I’ve convinced you!
You need an estate plan (yes, you really do), and you’re ready to hire an estate planning attorney to get the ball rolling.
So why do you feel like you’ve hit a wall?
Never fear, my friend. Baby steps.
Check out this list of 5 (mostly) painless things you can do to get started with your own estate management and planning process.
1. Learn the basics.
Not because it’s your job, but because information is priceless.
In my opinion, the key to empowerment is education.
2. Start getting organized.
I know, I know. Gathering information can be a pain in the you-know-what, and it may be a big reason why people put off getting started.
But you don’t need any official forms at this point--just start a list in a notebook or use a spreadsheet! Write down everything--anything you own (include bank accounts, any investments, real estate, cars, life insurance policies, etc.), any debts you owe, and anything you think you’ll get in the future (inheritances, lawsuit judgments, etc.).
3. Brainstorm who you trust to help out.
There’s a lot more of this than many people realize. For example, with a trust-based estate plan you’ll need a trustee(s), an executor (for your pour-over will), agents for both financial affairs and healthcare needs, a guardian and/or conservator for any minor children (check out this post to learn more about who all these folks are).
Now, these don’t all need to be family and friends. There are professionals and corporations that can take on these tasks, and usually they will be paid out of your estate.
4. Brainstorm who you want to receive your property.
Who will get your house? Your life insurance proceeds? Your grandma’s china?
Sometimes, these are easy decisions: spouse, children, grandchildren, life partner, etc. Sometimes it’s trickier, or there are charitable, religious, or educational organizations you’d like to gift property to. The sky’s the limit!
Make a list, and be sure to include names, birthdates, and addresses.
5. Identify pressing questions, concerns, and anxieties.
Your estate planning lawyer isn’t just there to draft documents--they’re there to listen, guide, and provide counsel.
Try to be honest! For example, you’ll want to share with your attorney if cost is a concern so you’d like to explore payment plans, or if time is of the essence because someone’s health is failing.
Jot down what you’re worried about--whether someone will contest your will, whether there’s enough money to send your kids to college if something happens, whether your family knows your end-of-life wishes, etc.
Estate plans are not one-size-fits-all, and being upfront about your goals and concerns is absolutely essential, but sometimes it's hard to remember all that during your meeting with your attorney. Being prepared goes a long way to helping you feel comfortable and helping your attorney know exactly what you need.
This can totally seem overwhelming. I understand. But wills and estate planning aren’t usually things you’re doing because they’re easy. . .
You’re doing it because it’s what's best for you and for your family.
Remember, you do NOT have to have any decisions nailed down to start working with an estate planning attorney--just brainstorm! Your attorney will ask questions and offer suggestions and advice if you need it.
“Every journey starts with a single step” and all that, right?
With these 5 steps, you'll be ahead of the game and well on your way to having a estate plan to give you the peace of mind you've been craving..
Wanna learn more about your options?