Estate Planning Tips for the New Year

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willThe New Year is the logical time for financial planning and estate planning.  After all, the start of the New Year is an ideal time to look forward and plan for the future.  Estate planning is the essence of planning for the future, both for you and your heirs.  You can make a very difficult time easier for them now—if you follow these tips.

Don’t wait.

This is one of the most common mistakes people wait: they wait too long to plan for the future.  Unfortunately, procrastination adds stress to their family and friends during an already tough time.  If your New Year’s resolution is to establish an estate plan for the future, don’t wait to consult a lawyer.

Make sure it’s legal.

As tempting as it is to jot down a few wishes on a piece of paper, a worthless document can cause more problems for your heirs during an already stressful time—and cost them more money.  To create a legally-binding estate planning document that eliminates any questions when you’re not there to answer them, contact an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable in your state and local regulations.

Don’t just file your will away.

A will is not a static document; instead review and update your will when you add more members to your family, your marriage circumstances change, there is a death of a beneficiary, or significant changes in assets. Ask your attorney for any other circumstances that would dictate a change in your legal estate planning documents. 

When your will is updated, avoid filing your estate planning documents in a safe deposit box.  If you put your will in a safe deposit box, you can make the process more costly and complicated for your family.  Your family may have to get a court order to gain access to the safe deposit box.  Instead, choose a fireproof, protected container for your document or ask your attorney for other recommendations for document storage.

Think beyond just drafting a will.

Many think of a will as a catch-all document with stipulations for almost any situation; actually, a will’s only purpose is to dictate the distribution of your assets when you die.  A complete estate plan also names a Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and includes other legal documents specific to your situation. To find out what should all be included in your estate plan, ask your attorney.

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