The uncertainty thrust upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic has people nationwide asking a common question: estate planning, where to start? In the last twelve months, many have for the first time faced the uncomfortable possibility that they may fall sick and die. In response, the need to protect one’s assets and loved ones has become clear. An estate plan achieves this and getting started is easier than you might think.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a set of documents that serve to designate who will receive your assets and how your responsibilities will be handled when you either pass away or become incapacitated. Ideally, a person begins building their estate plan as soon as they reach the age of majority and continues to update and expand it as their life grows. Often, this does not happen. Life’s many responsibilities get in the way and only when age or catastrophe forces mortality into view does a person recognize the urgency of the task. If you are well into your adult life and still haven’t gotten around to planning your estate, don’t worry, but don’t delay, either.
Four Steps to Building a Secure Estate
1. Compile a List of Your Assets and Responsibilities
The first step to estate planning is building a comprehensive picture of all the things your plan serves to protect. This means tangible assets such as real estate, vehicles, and items of sentimental or material value; intangible assets such as financial accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement plans; debts you may owe; and children or loved ones who depend on your care.
Once you have compiled such a list and determined the value of your assets, the real work of planning your estate begins.
2. Talk to Your Family and Loved Ones
Estate planning is not just about how to protect your assets during uncertain times, but about how to protect your loved ones, too. As you organize your assets, you want to think about both maximizing your beneficiaries’ inheritance and minimizing any possibility of family conflict. This means taking the time to sit and talk with your nearest and dearest about your estate planning decisions long before crisis sets in.
An experienced estate planning attorney familiar with your position can coach you through the most important topics to bring up with your loved ones. Inevitably, these will include who you wish to designate as executor, who will handle healthcare and financial decisions should you become incapacitated, how you plan to distribute your assets, and who will serve as guardian to any minor children you may have. As you age, you will also want to talk to your loved ones about your long-term care plan and wishes.
3. Seek Trusted Professional Help
At the same time as you talk to your family about your estate planning needs and goals, you want to reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure your plan is both comprehensive and ideally suited to your situation. Not only will a good attorney make sure your documents are properly executed according to state law, but they will also make sure you understand all aspects of your plan and will advise you any time updates are needed either due to changes in legislation or personal circumstance.
4. Keep Your Plan Up to Date
As you age and your responsibilities grow and change, so too do your estate planning needs. Any time a major life event occurs such as the birth of a child, the beginning or end of a marriage, a significant change in your assets, or the death of a loved one, your estate plan requires a review and update. Indeed, even if nothing important changes in your life, it is important to revisit your plan with your attorney every few years simply to ensure the priorities around which you built your plan have not changed.
If events of the present have you asking, ‘estate planning, where to start?’ or if you simply have questions about how to protect your assets during uncertain times, do not hesitate to reach out to the Deliberato Law Center either by calling our office at (216) 341-3413 or writing us using the contact form on our website.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Deliberato Law Center