The Simplest Estate Planning Guide For You

Estate planning is commonly understood as just writing a will but it is more than that. Here is the simplest way you can understand all you need to get started with estate planning.

Estate planning guide
Estate planning. Source: Shutterstock

The popular Jamaican reggae star, Bob Marley, passed on at 36 years from cancer in 1981. Amy Winehouse, the soulful English singer, and songwriter died from alcohol poisoning in 2011 at 26 years. On April 21, 2016, Prince Rogers, the American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist died in an elevator in his Paisley Park compound. Lastly, Aretha Franklin, whose songs still touch every one of us, died in 2018 at 76 years from a common form of pancreatic cancer.

In the tragedy list above (if you choose to name it so), a few things are common to the four people above. First, they were all popular celebrities. Second, of course, they are all dead. And as it concerns us in this post, they all died without a will, and that came with some problems in the family after their death.

Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person’s life, for the management and disposal of that person’s estate during the person’s life, in the event the person becomes incapacitated and after death.[1]Estate Planning – Wikipedia Even though estate planning is commonly referred to as the process of writing a will, it is more than just that.

The estate planning process involves careful documentation of your estate, your beneficiaries, assets, etc and it can be quite complex and challenging. Hence, you need to hire an estate planning attorney to guide you through the process and who would enforce the legal statements of your will now and afterward.

Why Is Estate Planning Necessary and When Should You Do It?

The fact that death does not often announce itself before it comes knocking has taken many people unawares. And if you have a lot of assets and estate, the problem of who takes what and who doesn’t arise. When one dies, one does not benefit from his estate anymore but leaving them without a proper estate plan can hamper a smooth transfer of your estate to one’s heirs and beneficiaries.

It becomes very important to do estate planning for your estate and to do it right now. Procrastination remains the number problem of estate planning.

The Ultimate Estate Planning Checklist

As I already mentioned, estate planning is more than just writing a will. A thorough estate planning means accounting for all your assets and ensuring they are transferred smoothly to the beneficiaries whom you wish should receive them. it is also important that you update the estate plan periodically.

Here is an estate planning checklist that can make the process a little easier and more organized:

  1. Itemizing your inventory
  2. Itemize your non-physical assets (paper documents, accounts, access credentials, etc)
  3. Assemble a list of debts
  4. Make a membership list
  5. Make copies of your lists
  6. Review retirement accounts
  7. Update your insurance
  8. Assign transfer of death resignation
  9. Choose a responsible estate administrator
  10. Draft a will

Read here[2]Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die – Investopedia for more details about the checklist above.

Common Questions about Estate Planning

Do I need an estate attorney/lawyer for my estate planning?

The simple answer is yes. You need an attorney to guide you through the process. Early enough, you might be able to do the planning, documentation, and distribution of your estate by yourself but even if you are able to handle this rigorous task by yourself, having a lawyer is still inevitable. A will is the end product of an estate plan and it is a legal document. You will need a lawyer to help with the court duties that may be required to validate your will/estate plan.

Can I do without an estate planning attorney?

You need the professional services of an estate planning attorney. This is not disputable. An estate planning attorney can provide legal guidance on the suitability of the estate plan you are building for you if the elements of estate planning projects are appropriate for your special family circumstances and if its rules will last long enough.

It is also crucial to remember that regulations around Trusts and probate are constantly evolving. Thus, you should get an estate attorney who is aware of these changes in order to reduce the risk of protracted legal disputes among your heirs. Using the services of an experienced estate planning attorney is perhaps the only way to ensure that your records are valid when they are being referenced.

What are the other merits of having an estate planning attorney?

Aside from guiding you through the process of estate planning, an estate planning attorney can guarantee you individualized attention while making some important but difficult decisions. An estate planning attorney can assist you in drafting an acceptable estate plan that meets your goals and specific objectives after having a thorough consultation session with you. An estate planning attorney can also help review your estate plan if you already have one to make sure that they are accurate and compatible with your current requirements.

What will happen if I die without having an estate plan?

If you die without an estate plan, you won’t suffer any loss, of course, but that means your heirs will be required to deal with the probate process, spending money and time in other to secure claims to your properties. in the worst-case scenario, estranged family members may lay claim or may be appointed as heirs to your legacy irrespective of what your intentions are.

Final words

By now, you should already be able to see the importance of an estate planning attorney in the process of estate planning. However, finding the right one might require some effort.

It is also important you update your estate plan according to changes in Federal Government legislation for your state or country. Currently, San Diego in California has new legislation[3]California Property Tax – An Overview; https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/pub29.pdf being passed by the Federal Government and State Authorities of California. This new legislation will affect capital gains, estate, and property tax planning, hence, if it applies to you, you will need to talk with an estate planning attorney in San Diego who knows about these changes, to help you update your current estate plan if you already had one. This applies to other states and countries whose property rights legislations are currently changing.

References

References
1 Estate Planning – Wikipedia
2 Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die – Investopedia
3 California Property Tax – An Overview; https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/pub29.pdf

Prosper Yole is a medical doctor, a seasoned writer and passionate blogger. He is the founder of Knowseeker.com. With many years of trials, failure, and near successes in areas of relationship, health, business & entrepreneurship, personal development, and content writing, he creates quality content that resonates well with his audience across the entire internet.

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