Every journey starts with the first step, and your estate planning begins with assembling information and answering questions. Your estate plan’s complexity will depend on many factors, including your family and its unique set of circumstances, the type and value of your assets, your overall financial plan and your ideas on how you would like to divide what remains of your estate at your death.
Begin your estate planning by doing the following, and don’t worry if you can’t complete or answer something on this list. Just thinking about the question will help prepare you:
- Make a list of your assets on a page that has room for two additional columns.
- Note any real estate located outside Burlington County.
- Write the approximate value of these assets in one column. There is no need to be exact, but use reasonable values.
- In the next column, write your liabilities against these assets as well as any unsecured liabilities, such as credit card debt.
- Total the columns.
- If you were to retire, are there enough assets, after liabilities, to provide for your retirement?
- If you wish to stay in your house when you are older, are there enough funds to provide for in-house care?
- Consider your personal exposure to liability. For most people, it’s limited to liability from an auto accident, but for some people such as small business owners and doctors, the exposure is larger. List what defenses you have from your liabilities.
- Write down who you would like to receive your assets if you were to die tomorrow. If the answer is your spouse, also write down who would get your assets if your spouse and you would die in a mutual accident. If the answer would change, write down who would receive them if you were to die farther out in the future.
- Ask yourself, and be honest, if you were to die tomorrow are there enough assets to provide for the heirs you have listed?
- Ask yourself, and be honest, are the heirs you have listed capable of protecting the assets you plan to leave them? Will your spouse remarry if you die, and if so, have a prenuptial agreement? Do you trust your son or daughter-in-law? Are your children in danger of creditor issues or bankruptcy?
- If your heirs are to young to manage their inheritance, who is best to manage the assets until your children are ready? At what age will they be ready?
- If your children are minors, who is best suited to raise them if your spouse and you have died?
- If you ever become incapacitated and unable to care for your children, who is best suited to take care of them in the short run, so they can remain in their schools?
- If you ever become incapacitated, who is best suited to care for your assets? Who is the best person to care for you medically?
- At your death, what arrangements do you want made for your body? Do you wish to be an organ donor? Have you listed your body on any New Jersey donor program?
Once you have made these lists and thought about these questions you are ready to meet with your Philadelphia estate-planning attorney and make good use of your time. An experienced Philadelphia estate-planning attorney will work with you to give you various options to meet your goals and to put your goals onto paper.
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