Estate planning is the process of designating who will receive your assets in the event of your death or incapacitation. Having a well-thought-out estate plan is the most reliable way to ensure that heirs and beneficiaries correctly receive the assets. More often than not, the correct way is to simply minimize taxes and any conflict down the road.
So, how do you do estate planning properly? In this guide, we’re going to look at some tips and techniques that anyone can use to manage their estate and keep it hassle-free. Our tips will work for all regions regardless of what is the valuation of your assets or how many beneficiaries you have.
For more specific legal help, we recommend you get in touch with a trust administration lawyer California. An attorney can help you understand the particulars of your case in more detail and get to the bottom of any problems.
With that out of the way, here are some general tips and techniques to always keep in mind while doing estate planning.
Creating an Inventory
Most trust litigation lawyers will agree that the first step is to create an inventory. This is the process of making a comprehensive list of all of your tangible and intangible assets. The assets include all of these:
- Bank accounts
- Personal property
- Alternative investments
- Online accounts (like social media accounts or your personal iCloud and Google accounts)
It’s very important to cover all types of assets to avoid any problems.
It should be your priority to put the needs of your loved ones first. So, we recommend you consider the needs and desires of your family including minor children, elderly parents, and even disabled family members.
At this point, you should also decide who is going to take care of you in case you’re no longer able to do so.
Ask any competent Danville estate planning attorney and you’ll quickly understand the importance of having crystal clear directives. Any amount of vague language, outdated information, insufficient terms, and conditions that are not explicit are risks that can cause problems even in the years when you’re not around.
This creates additional problems and generates unnecessary legal billing, not to mention the emotional trouble that your loved ones will need to go through.
The idea is to create a will or trust to specify how your assets will be distributed and who will be responsible for managing them.
We also recommend that you create a living will at this point and a power of attorney that will specify your medical and financial wishes in case you become incapacitated.
Forgetting to take this into account can also cause problems for you later.
Reviewing the Beneficiaries
Make sure your beneficiaries are up-to-date on all your accounts and policies, including life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. More often than not, we do our estate planning once and then forget about it. It’s important to review the beneficiaries and all the terms at least once a year, preferably twice a year.
Outdated information can lead to problems and involve a lot of paperwork and trips to the court. It’s nobody’s wet dream to take these trips and they can take a toll on anyone who has to do all this stuff.
The best way to keep safe is to periodically review your beneficiaries for any change.
Estate Tax Laws
Generally, your lawyer will tell you the specific tax laws that apply. This includes estate taxes, gift taxes, and several other tax impacts. The exact laws differ from state to state and it will do you good to fully understand your region’s estate tax laws.
For example, here are the trustee fees in California.
These laws affect your estate plan remarkably in some cases. They can create a discrepancy between the expectations of the beneficiaries and the final payouts, for example.
Professional help is very valuable at this point and you should always hire an attorney or a financial advisor to help you create your estate plan. This also ensures that there are no loopholes and that it’s legally sound.
Don’t put reassessments on the back burner! You should review and update your whole estate plan frequently, just like how you should review your beneficiaries periodically. We recommend you schedule a reassessment every six months.
Apart from that, it goes without saying that you should review your estate plan after major life events. These include marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a family member.
Though a lot of people understand this and do it, they still sometimes ignore large sections of the plan because they believe those parts aren’t going to be affected. After a few years of significant life changes, all this sort of piles up and some legal problems start to manifest themselves.
If not checked in time, these can grow to become a major pain a few years down the line. So, our professional advice is that when you review your estate plan after a major life event, always do it thoroughly. Don’t skip any section of the plan because you don’t know which sections are going to be affected.
Anyone can create an estate plan but it needs more than just a list of your assets and beneficiaries to actually make it work. Proper estate plans protect you from unnecessary legal troubles and taxes—And we highly recommend you get the help of a professional to create yours.