Finances – Estate Planning

 

When it comes to estate planning, there are a few guidelines that everyone should follow regardless of wealth, age, or living situation. Estate planning is essential to making sure that loved ones and personal properties are properly handled after one’s death. The more one is prepared with the proper documents and agreements, the smoother the outcome will be once all is said and done.

There are a few things that people can plan now, even if they are perfectly healthy. The earlier one begins estate planning, the better. Emergencies do happen, and having things planned in advanced can alleviate some of the stress on loved ones left behind.

The first thing that all people should have as part of their estate plan is a written will. Verbal agreements can be tricky, especially when it comes to dividing up property after death, so a formal, written agreement is always best. Wills are relatively simple to draw up; one can write a will (with the assistance of a lawyer) for as little as $300, or $70 online.

To know what to include in the will, one should go through all of their assets and decide what parties will receive which property. Assets that should be taken into account include: monetary property, real estate property, vehicles, family heirlooms, etc. In most cases, the writer of the will should talk to the parties receiving property to make sure that the transaction is acceptable.

A 35-year old, middle class father might not think that he has enough money to set up a trust, but trusts are not exclusively for the rich. Trusts allow the estate owner to divvy up property and financial assets at the time and increments they see fit. Trusts can also offer protection from lawsuits, higher taxes, and disputes.

Another necessary step to estate planning is an agreement about who will assume the estate owner’s power of attorney in the event that they cannot physically or mentally take care of their affairs. Estate planners should carefully consider their appointee and make sure that they have their best interests in mind. The appointment should be made officially, in writing, to avoid potential confusion or conflict.

While estate planning might not seem like a pressing matter before the age of 60 or 70-years old, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Including a few simple documents and agreements in an estate plan can benefit both the estate’s owner and its beneficiaries by providing protection and peace of mind.