When should you begin estate planning? It is really never too early to start planning for the future. Unfortunately, most people wait too long to start making those difficult decisions. Some people never get around to planning their estate until it is too late. As a result, loved ones may be grieving the loss while left dealing with the mess of an unplanned estate. The earlier you start estate planning, the more secure you can feel that your loved ones will be taken care of.
People in their 20s, 30s, or 40s may not think about making an estate plan. However, planning for the future will help to protect loved ones in the event something were to happen. If you are married, have children, pets, own a home, or have other significant assets, you should consider an estate plan, no matter what your age.
One of the first steps in estate planning involves taking account of all your property. This includes retirement accounts, investments, stocks, vehicles, real estate, art, collectibles, insurance policies, and even family heirlooms. Once you start this process, you may realize you have more assets than you thought, and these assets may be spread all over the place. Furthermore, you may want to take this opportunity to move certain assets around or close out unused accounts.
After you've taken account of you assets, you should think about how you want those assets distributed. Do you want to support your local church, a charity, educational institution, or arts organization? Do you want to pass everything along to your spouse or children? Different estate planning instruments can ensure that your wishes are carried out into the future.
It can be difficult to talk about what will happen when we are gone. Friends and family do not like talking about death, especially when it seems so far off. However, these difficult conversations are necessary to properly plan for the future. Clear communication is important for your family to understand your wishes for the future.
Your estate plan should also include discussing what you want to happen if you were to become medically incapacitated. A living will or advance health care directive can ensure that your wishes are carried out if you become terminally ill, unconscious, or otherwise unable to communicate.
Whenever you have a major life change, you should consider revisiting your estate plan. After the birth of a child or grandchild, you may want to reevaluate how you plan to distribute your assets. A marriage or divorce will also likely result in significant life-planning changes.
Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney who will make sure your wishes are carried out and help you avoid some of the pitfalls of an unplanned estate. A simple will may not be enough to avoid probate, confusion over asset distribution, or tax penalties. You do not want to leave your family dealing with the stress of an unplanned estate while grieving the loss of a loved one. A well thought out estate plan can ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of.
If you have any questions about how to begin estate planning, Butterfield Schechter LLP is here to help. We will answer all your questions and make sure your estate plan will provide for your loved ones and keep your best interests at heart.