As you build wealth and gain assets during your lifetime, you will need to start thinking about how they should be distributed after your death. This becomes even more critical if you start a family.
Estate planning requires the help of a lawyer, who will walk you through the process. Still, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the main steps of estate planning before you reach out for legal help.
What are Your Assets (and Debts)?
The first step in estate planning is to make a list of all your assets and debts. Many people don’t realize how much they own until it’s time to make a will. Any properties, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, business interests, stocks, collectibles, and more are assets that will be passed down after your death.
It’s also important to make a note of any debts you might have. These debts must be paid before your beneficiaries will gain any inheritance from your estate.
Who Should Benefit and How Can You Provide For Your Family?
Choosing your beneficiaries is an extremely important step in the estate planning process. You can choose who will receive which assets when you pass away. You can also make plans for what should happen if you are incapacitated. Some assets, such as life insurance policies, have separate beneficiary designation processes, so be sure to keep these up to date.
The main goal of estate planning is to provide for the ones you love, in addition to distributing your assets. You can designate guardians for your children if you and their other parents or guardians are deceased. You can also provide for any children from a previous marriage in your estate plans.
Should You Set Up Other Legal Directives?
During the estate planning process, you might want to set up other legal documents, such as a trust for passing on some of your assets, power of attorney, or a medical care directive. This will help to ensure that your wishes will be carried out if you are no longer able to make decisions.
You will also need to appoint an executor for your estate. If you decide to set up a trust, you will need a trustee.
When Should You Start Planning and Make a Will?
The steps in estate planning are fairly simple, but you will need the help of an estate planning attorney to make a will and any other documents you need. Although it might feel strange to start planning for the end of your life while you’re still young and healthy, it’s always better to be prepared should the worst happen.
Start thinking about estate planning once you gain some assets, when you get married, or when you experience another big life event. You’ll also want to revisit your will from time to time and keep it up to date. To start the estate planning process, call our firm in Worcester, MA, at 508-571-5452 and speak with our experienced estate planning lawyer.