What is estate planning? It’s a plan where you consider what happens to your estate when you pass away. It’s a way to ensure the people you want to inherit your money and personal property don’t end up being contested and ending up with someone you disowned or never wanted to inherit your wealth.
People don’t often think about their estate plans, but they should. Plus, they should keep these five elder law tips in mind as they do.
Don’t Put It Off
Don’t push off estate planning. There are no guarantees, and if you wait too long, you may run out of time. If you need to change it down the road, you can. But, you won’t leave your family with no choice but to battle things out in court.
You’ve probably read cases in the news where a celebrity or musician died without having a will in place. Prince is one of them. It’s a mess when an estate plan isn’t made as too much fighting takes place.
Consider Everyone on Your List
Who is in your family that you do and don’t want things to go to? Most families have some family members who haven’t spoken in 10, 20, or 30+ years. You need to make sure you have a list of all of your family and mark those who have shunned you or vice versa.
If you die without a will, your state’s intestacy laws determine who inherits your estate. The order is typically as follows:
- Your spouse (if you have one)
- Your kids (if you have them)
- Your parents
- Your siblings
- Your grandparents
- Your next of kin (aunts/uncles, cousins, etc.)
- The state
Talk to them to see what they want. You might find that your financially-stable son has no interest in your money and only wants the car you have tucked away. Make sure there are no disagreements over different items. If there is a lot of jealousy or conflict, consider selling all personal possessions and splitting the money according to your preferences.
Inventory Your Assets
Write out a list of everything you own, including retirement funds, property, bank accounts, valuables, etc. You need this so that you can start planning out who you would want to inherit the different items.
What Money Do You Owe?
Do you have outstanding debt like a mortgage, credit cards, or unpaid taxes? You also want to work with an estate planning attorney to determine the impact of an estate plan on your taxes. State laws vary, so it’s important to bring in an expert.
Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
As tempting as it is to use free DIY estate planning tools you find online, they can become problematic. State laws differ, so the legal forms you use online may not be valid in your area. An elder law attorney is there to help you draft the legal forms needed for estate planning. Arrange a consultation with an attorney specializing in estate planning and elder law.