If you have been postponing creating your estate plan, you are not alone. Most people know they need to do it, but they feel overwhelmed by the idea of actually meeting with an estate planning attorney to get it done. A comprehensive estate plan not only protects your loved ones after you are gone, it also protects you while you are living. Below are some important tips to consider:
- Every estate plan is unique and created to suite your individual needs. The basic components of an estate plan include a Will, appointment of guardian for minor children, durable power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney (or proxy). For many individuals a trust is extremely beneficial because it helps you avoid the probate process. Trusts are not only for the wealthy – they provide you flexibility to decide when and how your assets should be distributed to your loved ones, as well as allowing you to reduce certain taxes.
- It is important to draft a comprehensive list of everything you own including real property, investments, retirement accounts, business interests and other valuable types of property.
- Be prepared to make difficult decisions. If you have minor children, you must decide to appoint as their guardian if you should become incapacitated or die. You must also decide who to list as your beneficiaries and who will make your medical decisions and handle your finances if you are unable to do so for yourself.
- Your estate planning attorney can help you understand the federal estate tax exemption and the amount you can leave to your beneficiaries free from federal taxes.
- While it is common for married couples to leave everything they own to their surviving spouse, this may not be the wisest choice for you. Although you can leave an unlimited sum to your spouse tax-free, it could result in your children being forced to pay heftier taxes when your spouse dies. You should also consider making tax-free gifts while you are alive and donations to charitable funds.
When attorney Diane Anderson’s mother was 33 years old, she died in a plane crash. This sudden, untimely death was an emotionally overwhelming time for Ms. Anderson. She learned the difficult lesson that life is not promised to any of us. Contact The Law Office of Diane Anderson to protect yourself and your loved ones.