After many years of helping people create successful estate plans, I can confidently say that most people are initially intimidated by the entire prospect of estate planning. Unfortunately, that often causes people to put off estate planning which can have negative consequences. To help eliminate the feeling of being overwhelmed that people often experience when they think about estate planning, I decided to put together 10 estate planning tips to help you create a successful estate plan.
10 Estate Planning Tips
- Stop procrastinating. Most people put off creating an estate plan even though they admit how important it is to have one. The purpose of the tips I am providing is to encourage anyone who has yet to create a plan to get started. It does not matter how old you are, the value of your assets, or whether you have started a family yet. Every adult can benefit from having an estate plan in place.
- Inventory and document your assets. You may know what assets you own and how much the assets are worth, but if something happens to you someone else will need that information. In addition, your estate planning attorney will want a complete and accurate list of your assets to properly advise you on how to protect them in your estate plan. Before your first estate planning appointment, make a list of all your assets, including information such as account numbers, location of the asset, current value, and other pertinent information.
- Do not overlook digital and electronic assets. In the 21st century, most people own digital or electronic assets along with traditional assets. In addition, you probably access some of your assets electronically. The Executor of your estate will need to know how to access these accounts. To ensure access when the time comes, create a list of websites, account numbers, log in names, and passwords and update the list when necessary.
- Consider your fiduciary roles. Fiduciary roles within your estate plan include positions such as the Executor of your Last Will and Testament, the Trustee of a trust agreement, and an Agent in an Advance Directive or Power of Attorney. These are important roles within your estate plan so take the time necessary to appoint the right people to fill the positions.
- Consider your beneficiaries. Many of your beneficiaries will be immediately obvious choices, such as a spouse and children; however, you may want to include additional beneficiaries. For example, if you want to leave something to a religious organization or promised a family heirloom to a niece or nephew, these are also beneficiaries within your estate plan.
- Think about the possibility of incapacity. If you were incapacitated tomorrow, who would you want to take control of your finances? Who would you want to make healthcare decisions for you? To make sure your wishes are honored you should incorporate incapacity planning into your estate plan.
- Consider the impact of taxes on your estate. If your estate owes federal gift and estate taxes, a significant portion of your estate could be lost to Uncle Sam. While North Carolina does not collect estate taxes, other states do. Some states even impose an inheritance tax. Understanding the potential impact taxes could have on your estate is essential to the creation of a successful estate plan.
- Contemplate charitable gifts. If you have an interest in making charitable gifts, while you are alive or after your death, discuss your intentions with your estate planning attorney so those gifts can be factored into your estate plan.
- Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Trying to create your own estate plan increases the likelihood of costly errors when it comes time to probate your estate. To make sure your estate plan works as intended, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
- Update your estate plan. Of all the estate planning tips, this one may be the most important. Once your estate plan is in place, do not forget about it. As things in your life change, take the time to review your estate plan to see if anything in your plan needs to be updated to reflect those changes.
Contact Our Chapel Hill Attorneys Help with Estate Planning
If you have additional questions or concerns about any of the estate planning tips provided above, or you are ready to get started on the creation of your estate plan, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Clarity Legal Group serving Chapel Hill, Durham and greater Raleigh, NC. Please call us at 919-484-0012 or contact us online.
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