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3 Things to Know Before Starting the Estate Planning Process

3 Things to Know Before Starting the Estate Planning Process

couple meeting with lawyer for estate planning appointment

Plan a secure future for your family with the help of Appleby Healy’s estate planning services.

Although not a fun or pleasant topic, sound estate planning is the only way to guarantee that your wishes will be carried out upon your death. Estate planning refers to the process of distributing your assets after you’re gone, either through a living will or living trust. Without one of these in place, the government will decide where your assets ultimately end up through probate proceedings. After a lifetime of hard work and conscientious saving, of course you want to be in control of what happens to your money, property and personal possessions. Estate planning can be a complex process, however, so here are some things to keep in mind from the lawyers at Appleby Healy.

The first thing to consider before beginning the estate planning process is your net worth, in other words, the total value of all the assets you have accumulated. These assets can include retirement accounts, life insurance policies, personal possessions, real estate and business holdings. Subtract any debts you have incurred to calculate your net worth. An estate planning lawyer can then help you estimate the amount you will have to pay in taxes. All of this will give you a better idea of what exactly will be left over for your beneficiaries.

Estate Planning Comparison: Living Will vs. Living Trust

Think about the option that best suits the needs of you and your family: a living will or living trust. An estate planning lawyer can advise you on the pros and cons of each, but here is a brief overview.

As a general rule, a living trust is more expensive to establish and must be actively managed by you or a trustee, so the higher your net worth, the more sense this estate planning option makes. A trust allows you to dictate what happens with your business or real estate holdings in the event you die or are incapacitated. A trust also allows you to set parameters on when and how your heirs are able to access their inheritance, which becomes necessary if you have minor children or other dependents with special needs. A trust also allows you to forgo probate, keeping details of your estate and financial matters private.

A living will is an estate planning document that’s easy to prepare – simply identify in writing who your heirs are and what property you wish them to inherit. You can also establish guardianship for your children if they are minors. Make sure the will is signed, witnessed and stored in a place that is secure but also accessible to your heirs. Unlike a living trust, a will is subject to probate court proceedings, so the details of your estate become public record.

Become familiar with how probate court proceedings work in your state. Your estate planning lawyer will be able to advise you on this. In general, probate has a reputation of being expensive, time-consuming and impersonal. Many states, however, offer an informal or expedited version of probate for estates with a monetary value below an established threshold. The threshold will vary depending on the state, but if available, informal probate can be an inexpensive, quick and relatively painless option for distributing your assets.

A lifetime of responsible financial decisions and wise investments can be nullified by a lack of sound estate planning. Sit down with a lawyer from Appleby Healy Attorneys at Law to explore which options are best for you and your family. The consultation is free, and the peace of mind is invaluable.

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