As you begin the estate planning process, there’s a lot of information to absorb. Below, we have outlined the basics, so that you have a foundation before you begin the process.
- Every adult needs an estate plan, even an 18 year old.
- If you want to control your medical and financial future, comprehensive and legally valid estate planning documents are necessary.
- If you don’t legally document your estate plan, your state law and the court will create an estate plan for you.
- Trusted helpers are personal representatives (i.e. executors), trustees, power of attorney agents, and guardians for minor children. You need all of these trusted helpers to act on your behalf when you cannot.
- Be sure to ask permission before appointing trusted helpers and name back-up trusted helpers, as well.
- Let your trusted helpers know where you keep your estate planning documents and other important papers. In addition, make sure that they know how to contact your estate planning attorney for guidance.
- Update your estate planning documents on a regular basis, every three to five years or upon the occurrence of a significant event such as a move to a new state, a new child, a new marriage, or a divorce.
- Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney for the design, drafting, execution and funding of your estate plan. Do-it-yourself estate plans are typically doomed to fail.
- You absolutely need a will, health care power of attorney, HIPAA release and financial power of attorney.
- You are strongly encouraged to execute a living will, organ donation authorization and revocable living trust.
- Disclose personal family and financial information to your estate planning attorney, even if you’re not sure if it’s important or you’re ashamed of the information. Know that your attorney needs this information to properly design your estate plan and all conversations are kept confidential. Your attorney will not judge you or your loved ones.
If you don’t have a basic up-to-date, legally valid estate plan in place, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.