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Personal Estate Planning: One Of The Most Important Things You Can Do For Your Loved Ones

Creating a personal estate plan might seem daunting.  Apart from reviewing your finances, hiring an attorney and taking the time to think about who will receive what, you’re more or less forced to confront your own mortality.  Especially when you’re younger, there is less motivation to establish an estate plan.

But it’s very important that you do so.  Being prepared for eventualities, particularly when you have children or loved ones who will be in need should anything happen to you, is one of the most important things you can do.  Above all, you risk having your assets tied up in lengthy and costly legal battles, and more tax claims against your estate.  You can lose control of where your legacy will be bequeathed.

Some Things To Consider

Lawyer up and advisor up.  Some people have tried drafting their estate plans themselves, and there’s even software available that you can use to do it.  However, this isn’t generally recommended.  Attorneys and financial planners are the professionals that can help you maximize your estate’s value and create an iron-clad, uncontestable estate plan. It is worth the investment in the long run.   The best estate planning attorneys and financial advisors will tenaciously work for your best interests, and not view you as simply a client to churn through.

Tax issues.  Estate taxes are precisely why you should employ experienced professionals.  Make sure they have deep knowledge of federal and local tax laws, and that they can save you and your heirs some money.  Another tip: you can supplement the tax losses from your estate with insurance.

Carefully select an executor.  Give power of attorney to execute your will to a trusted family member or perhaps even a neutral advisor or party.  Unfortunately, family conflicts and feuds are a fact of life, and selecting the right person to be impartial and fair and faithful to your wishes is imperative.

Review yearly.  This is the most important piece of advice you can walk away with when you read this.  Many people think an estate plan is a one-time effort and then you can forget about it.  Wrong.  Your life can change drastically in the course of one year or ten.  New children, new assets, change in income, marriages and divorce—these are all life events that require your estate plan to be updated. Review it yearly with your advisors.

Planning For The Future

Create a living will.  Finally, although unpleasant to consider, think about creating a living will so that if you are incapacitated, your wishes will still be executed.  Being in a state where you are alive but unable to communicate opens the door to many legal and financial troubles for your designated heirs, and you will be unable to make the decisions you would want to make about your current state.

Again, all of this planning may seem depressing or morbid, but in fact, it’s one of the most life affirming things you can do.  Above all, it’s an act that demonstrates your love and concern for your loved ones.  Have a sense of humor when you go about it!  Prepare, and then go on with living a full and happy life.

Alex is a writer for The Law Office of Gregory R. Terra, a criminal defense law firm in Georgetown, Texas.  Alex is currently setting up his own will and testament.

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