Estate planning is one of those things that we know we need to do, but so many of us put off until it’s too late. Here are a few simple estate planning “do’s” to get you on the right track.
- Make a Plan: Depending on which statistic you look at, over half of all Americans die without a simple will. And without a plan, it’s state law that decides who gets your property. It could be a judge whom you’ve never met that decides who’ll be raising your children. And without a plan, the process of deciding how your property is divided is likely to be time consuming, expensive, and full of added stress and anxiety for your already grief-stricken family.
- Plan Early: Even if you’re young, the time to make an estate plan is now. And not just because of the obvious fact that none of us can predict when we’ll die. It’s also essential to make an estate plan while you’re of sound mind – once you lose mental capacity, you lose the ability to make an estate plan, or a disability plan, for that matter.
- Let Your Fiduciaries Know: Once you’ve made an estate plan, let your fiduciaries know you’ve nominated them to serve as fiduciaries. Your executor, trustee, and the guardian of your children have been appointed to some pretty important positions, and they deserve some advance notice. What if they don’t want the job? You deserve some warning, too. If you know ahead of time, you can choose someone else, and save your family some major panic down the road.
- Fund Your Revocable Living Trust: Once your Revocable Living Trust is signed, your job is not done. A trust is worthless unless it’s funded, so be sure to get your estate planning attorney’s guidance as to what property to transfer into your trust – and then make the appropriate transfers. Only the property that’s been transferred into the trust will avoid the probate property.
- Keep your plan updated. As the years go by, everyone’s life changes. And your estate plan needs to be updated to keep pace with the changes. As babies are born, people are married and divorced, and loved ones pass away, you need to work with your estate planning attorney to make sure that your plan does not become obsolete. And you need to check in with your attorney to make sure that your plan gets updated to reflect changes in the law.