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The First Things You Should Do in Estate Planning

You know it’s time to do your estate planning, but you’re not sure where to start. In this article, we’ll discuss starting points, things to consider before you have your documents drafted, and what information you should have gathered for your initial consultation with your attorney.

What’s the first thing to do in estate planning?

Just do it!

We know getting your “affairs in order” feels big, daunting, and maybe overwhelming or scary. Just because a thing is complicated doesn’t mean we should ignore it, though. If you own anything or if anyone relies on your support or care, you have an estate and need an estate plan. So, get it done!

The process is actually relatively simple if you partner with the right attorney and do a tiny bit of legwork on the front end. After you’ve hired an attorney, they can direct you to exactly the items needed to fully flesh out your plan, but we have a couple of recommendations below to help you along.

Read more about the most important things about estate planning here.

Create a List of Your Assets

Ideally, you’d have this list together before meeting with your attorney for the first time. (But don’t let this list stop you from getting started.) Listing out all real estate, properties, accounts, and special items (such as family heirlooms, items of sentimental value, or art/other collector’s items) colors in the picture of what makes up your estate. This list will help to guide you and your attorney to the best estate planning tools for you. It will guide the conversation about where assets should be directed at the time of your death. It will also guide your attorney to ask questions you may not have thought through.

Certain assets can be payable at death via a beneficiary designation, while others will require going through the probate process (unless, of course, they are owned by a trust). Your attorney can help you determine which items need to be accounted for in a Will or Trust, while also helping you determine which assets need beneficiary designations.

Create a List of Beneficiaries and Agents

Gather the names and contact information for each person you wish to name as a beneficiary, executor, agent, or other role within your estate plan. Having all of this contact information together will save you time and effort later on when your attorney begins asking how you would like your estate distributed or which person you’d like in each role.

As we mentioned above, some assets will have beneficiary designations directly attached to them (for example: a bank account or life insurance policy). While other assets will be distributed as directed through your Will and/or Trust. You’ll need to determine who should receive each asset. Your attorney will help you determine how those assets can be distributed.

Watch this video to learn more about choosing a primary beneficiary.

Have A Heart-to-Heart with Your Loved Ones

This is especially important for someone you name as guardian of your child. This is not something you would want to spring on them, so have a conversation and ask that person if they would be willing to be guardian of your child in the event of your temporary incapacity or death. This can prevent a situation where the person is surprised and says no— potentially leaving the Court to determine who should be your child’s guardian.

Aside from guardianship, it is good to talk to your loved ones about your estate plan. You don’t necessarily need to get into the nitty-gritty details, but explaining in advance to your loved one that you’ve named them Power of Attorney or Executor can prevent confusion or tension in the future. The same with your Advanced Directives for Medical Care. If your loved one already knows and understands your wishes, it can lessen the stress that could be overwhelming otherwise.

At the very least, it is important for someone to know where these documents are stored—so that when the time comes, they can be produced and executed.

Talk to a Pro

Today may be the very first day you’ve ever thought about your estate plan. If that’s the case, you can’t expect to be awesome at estate planning. Estate planning is complicated and likely not something you’re trained to do! So, talk to someone who is trained to do this. An estate planning attorney is a great ally to you as you’re considering the many options before you.

At Siedentopf Law, we love helping clients find the perfect tools to carry out their wishes. No estate is the same, so every estate plan is different. We will treat your situation with respect and honor the nuances of your unique estate. We will help you every step of the way and will help avoid pitfalls along the way. We are here to bring peace of mind to the whole process.

We know that having an estate plan is important, but we also know it’s a big job. We are here to take it off your plate and replace it with peace of mind and relief. Call us at (404) 736-6066 or visit our website to schedule a consultation.

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