4 Tips for Creating an Estate Plan
No adult is ever too old or too young to start estate planning. But how do you know where to start? At Phelps LaClair, we can help you get started planning for your family’s future as well as your own. From protecting your assets to designating a guardian for your children, there are many important things to cover when creating an estate plan. You can make sure your plan is sound by following these essential estate planning steps.
Four Tips for Creating a Successful Estate Plan
1: Take an Inventory of Your Assets
You likely have more assets than you realize, so creating a list of your assets is a good place to start with estate planning. This will help you determine which assets you need to protect, how to protect them, and who you would like to inherit them. When taking inventory, don’t forget to include your digital assets like account passwords, online banking information, and digitally stored documents and photos.
Here are a few other examples of important assets to include in your estate plan:
- Real estate property
- Collectibles like antiques or coins
- Stocks and bonds
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
2: Establish Essential Documents
Wills and trusts aren’t the only documents you should include in your estate plan. There are several other types of documents that you may need to ensure all of your wishes regarding your family, your future medical care, and the management and distribution of your assets are met.
Your estate plan should include the following documents:
- Will: A will names your beneficiaries and states how to distribute your assets to them. You can also name the guardian for your minor children and an executor for your estate.
- Trust: There are several types of trusts that protect your assets in different ways. For example, a living (revocable) trust allows you access to your assets during your lifetime, while an irrevocable trust can protect your assets from creditors because they belong to the trust and not to you.
- Power of attorney (POA): POA is an advance directive that gives someone the legal authority to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You typically only need one type of POA—medical, financial, or general—to cover your needs.
- Beneficiary designations: If your life insurance policies and retirement accounts have beneficiary designations that are separate from your will, make sure to keep a record of these designations to avoid any confusion when it comes to distribution.
3: Identify Your Beneficiaries and Other Designations
Make a list of all of the beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries for your assets. This will help you clarify who receives which assets when drafting your will or trust, and prevent you from leaving anyone out. Naming contingent (backup) beneficiaries for your assets ensures that they will still be distributed according to your wishes if the primary beneficiary dies or disclaims the inheritance.
You should also make a list of the people you would like to appoint to oversee your important assets, healthcare, and dependents. Designate your children’s guardian, an estate executor, a power of attorney agent, and a successor trustee. Make sure to discuss the responsibilities of the duty with each person you plan to appoint ahead of time, so they know what to expect and can ask you questions about their role.
4: Review and Update Your Estate Plan
In order for your estate plan to be successful, you must keep it up to date. Reviewing your estate plan with an attorney every few years will prevent future confusion and conflict when settling your estate. Make sure to update your plan immediately after significant events such as a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, an adoption, starting a business or purchasing a home, and after the death of a loved one to account for any changes to your beneficiaries and assets.
Estate Planning Attorney in Arizona
If you’re ready to start estate planning, seeking professional help can ease the process. The estate planning attorneys at Phelps LaClair in Mesa, Chandler, and the surrounding areas can help you design an estate plan that covers all of your needs. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about creating an estate plan or the documents you need to guarantee that your plan is a successful one. Call 480-892-2488 today to schedule your free consultation.