Preparing an estate plan can be difficult, and each step of the process can be complicated in its own way. Getting an estate plan ready is a multi-step process that involves not only information gathering, but reviewing and analyzing.
Calculate Your Net Worth
First things first, you need to determine your net worth by adding up the rough estimates of all of your assets. This includes personal property such as collectables and vehicles, retirement plans (401ks and IRAs), business interests, real estate, etc. You take this number and subtract it from your liabilities—a.k.a, your debts, loans, and mortgages. Finally, you must determine if your estate is liable for federal estate taxes and the full scope of what that might look like.
Establish the Need for an Estate Plan
There’s a good likelihood that your estate won’t be valued near federal estate tax limits, but there are still other fees—even if you’re not beholden to the estate tax it can still be an expensive process. Probate, for example, can be arduous and costly. There’s also the matter of handling significant assets: you’ll want to be certain that your property is in good hands and is distributed according to your wishes. Therefore, it’s crucial to find an expert to lend a hand.
Find a Good Professional
It’s crucial to have someone with experience to guide you through the estate planning process. It has a myriad of moving parts and those preparing plans are faced with many choices that can be very important to their loved ones.
A will is a contract, and any contract—if written incorrectly—can have consequences. Poor phrasing can invalidate an estate plan, and every aspect of a will carries with it formalities which must be observed.
Not to mention, there are many steps in the process of estate planning—even after hiring an attorney. These include determining if you need a will or revocable living trust, what to do if you become mentally incapacitated, forming a plan for what happens after your passing, wisely choosing fiduciaries, and more.
At Atherton & Associates, LLP, we strive to prepare you with the best information and advice for the hard questions.