A beginner’s guide to estate planning
Estate planning can be a difficult subject to approach. It’s not easy planning for what happens to your property when you pass away. People have the misconception that estate planning is only for wealthy people. However, regardless of how much money you have, you should plan for what happens to your assets after your death.
The importance of estate planning
Estate planning is important to ensure your final wishes are honored and that your property, financial assets and family members are taken care of. If you establish your estate plan in advance, you can save your family members from having to make decisions in a difficult time. It also helps avoid legal drama. A good estate plan protects your loved ones, ensuring they get what they’re owed, and minimizes the taxes tied to your estate.
Understanding estate planning
Estate plans cover funeral arrangements, guardianship of minor children, finances, property ownership and other fundamental aspects of a person’s life. The legal definition of estate includes all of the property you own at the time of death. Real estate, bank accounts, life insurance policies, stocks and any cars, jewelry or other items of value fall under a person’s estate. Working with a qualified attorney can help you minimize the taxes that need to be paid on your property during the transition.
Common estate planning mistakes
When it comes to estate planning, it’s easy to make a mistake if you’re working alone. That’s why it’s easier on you and your loved ones to work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. Professional lawyers who have experience in estate planning can help sort complicated assets and make sure the transition happens smoothly.
The biggest mistake people make is not having an estate plan at all. The first step is to commit to getting your affairs in order and find an attorney who will understand your needs. Ask your attorney about making gifts. Gifts up to a certain amount are not taxed, which means you estate tax will be lower for your loved ones. Once you’ve planned your estate, you’re not necessarily done with the process. If you make changes to your family or business, your will needs to be updated accordingly. Review your will from time to time to make sure it still reflects your wishes.
Estate planning preparation
Before you start planning your estate, your attorney needs to know quite a bit about you, your assets and your family. Many estate planning attorneys will have you start with an in-depth questionnaire that covers information on you, your children, your grandchildren and other significant people in your life. The form will also ask several questions about real estate you own, valuable works of art, antiques, collections and other property. It will take a close look at all your bank accounts, retirement plans, pensions, life insurance policies and any potential liabilities.
The attorneys at Keating O’Gara who specialize in estate planning are dedicated to helping you get all your affairs in order. Start the conversation today to give you and your family peace of mind heading into the new year.