Many people put off estate planning for as long as possible, but the unintended consequences of this frequently have negative outcomes. ideally, the estate planning process should begin at a relatively young age, particularly if you have children, substantial assets and/or property, or own your own business.
Because life is unpredictable, failing to have a proper plan in place can leave your intended beneficiaries in a very difficult position in the event of an unexpected occurrence. Here are three important first steps in crafting a document that protects your final wishes.
Clearly identify your heirs
Failure to properly identify your heirs can cause your assets and property to default to your next of kin. If you’ve got minor children, it can also mean that their guardianship will be determined by the courts instead of by your own stated preference. Succession planning may be particularly important for small business owners. After you’ve identified those who you want to include in your estate plan, you can begin to put the document together.
Create a detailed plan
The next step in your estate planning project is to create a detailed plan of how you want your property and assets dispersed by meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney. Keep in mind that the more precise and thorough you are, the less opportunity for misinterpretation by others, and therefore, less chance that your final wishes will be contested when the time comes.
Include details even if you think they are too small or insignificant to be mentioned. For instance, if you want to leave a piece of property or a financial asset such as a stock portfolio to your minor child or children, it may be to their benefit to specify at what age they will be able to take control of their inheritance. You always have the option of leaving it in a trust for them until they reach maturity.
Provide copies of your documents to interested parties
If your documents aren’t easily accessible, your final wishes may never be known. Providing copies of your documents to your loved one as well as to your lawyer will prevent many potential complications in the event of your unexpected demise. The document may also be more difficult to contest if several parties have finalized copies of your last will and testament. You should also consider comprising a secured list of passwords and usernames and leaving it in the hands of a trusted family member.