From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: How Do I Start My Estate Planning?
Most recently updated June 5th, 2018
“I am a Burlington County, New Jersey resident and I have meant to have a will drafted for years. Maybe I just need a shove. What is your suggestion for How do I start my estate planning adventure?”
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.
How Do I Start My Estate Planning?
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. By even thinking through these questions, you will help prepare yourself for an Estate Planning Lawyer to help give you ideas and craft your estate plan.
- Make a list of your assets on a page that has room for two additional columns.
- Write the approximate value of these assets in one column. There is no need to be exact but use reasonable amounts.
- In the next column, write your liabilities against these assets as well as any unsecured liabilities, such as credit card debt.
- Total the columns.
Analyze the Data for your Projected Lifespan.
- If you were to retire, are there enough assets, after liabilities, to provide for your retirement? (There are many calculators on the net to help you arrive at that conclusion).
- If you wish to stay in your house when you are older, are there enough funds to provide for in-house care?
- Consider your exposure to liability. For most people, liability is limited auto accidents. But, for some people such as small business owners and doctors, the exposure is more significant. List what defenses you have from your liabilities.
Analyze the Data For Those Who Depend on You.
- 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 you instead died father in the future, who would receive your assets in both situations?
- 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 too 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 you and your spouse died, who is best suited to raise your minor children?
- Should 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 that 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 to be made for your body? Do you wish to be an organ donor? Have you listed your body on any New Jersey donor program?
What to do With This Information?
Likely, you have not been able to answer all these questions with definitive answers.
Once you have made these lists and thought about these questions, you are ready to meet with your Burlington County estate-planning attorney and make good use of your time. An experienced Burlington County estate-planning attorney will work with you to give you various options to meet your goals and to put your goals on paper.
More Planning Information.
If you have more probate questions, please read my more detailed article, Important Estate Planning Documents for Life Events.
In Conclusion: How Do I Start My Estate Planning?
It all starts with the first step. By following my suggestions above, you will be ready to meet with your Estate Planning Lawyer and address the issues important to you. You will also save time, which saves you money.
If you would like to know more, please call to speak to one of our experienced estate planning lawyers. Our lawyers are is ready to answer your questions. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website. So, let me know how I did, comments and questions are welcome!
Furthermore, I would be happy to answer your questions. If you have any other matters feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. We try to make the process as painless as possible!
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