Estate plans help you arrange and manage the disbursement of your assets upon your passing or in the event of incapacitation. They also play an essential role in protecting your loved ones from costly fees, income tax, and financial burden. Yet, year after year, there’s always a high percentage of Americans who fail to get their estate planning documents in place. Although setting up one requires some work on your end, the process is relatively straightforward. Keep reading as we walk you through how to plan your estate below.

Your 4-Step Guide to the Basics of Estate Planning

If you’ve just started thinking about outlining your estate plan, but are unsure how to follow through, don’t get discouraged. Read and use this estate planning guide to get started.

1. Keep Track of Your Assets

You’ll want to acknowledge both your intangible and tangible assets and estimate their value to start. Tangible assets could consist of your:

  • house, land, and other real estate property
  • vehicles, such as cars, boats, and motorcycles
  • other valuable belongs, including artwork, antiques, and collectibles

Contrary to tangible assets, intangible assets aren’t physical in nature. They may include:

  • health savings accounts
  • retirement plans
  • life insurance policies
  • savings, checking accounts, and certificates of deposit
  • patents, trademarks, and copyrights

After you take inventory of these assets, you’re ready to determine their value. Work with a third-party service to get an outside valuation. Although outside valuations aren’t always necessary, they’ll help you get a better estimate of your asset’s true monetary value.

2. Choose Your Beneficiaries

Establishing your beneficiary designations is unarguably one of the most critical aspects of the estate planning process. Although you may assume your legal will outlines your future wishes, it may not be all-inclusive. Therefore, it’s pertinent to specify which friends, family members, and organizations will receive your assets in your living trust and living will. Selecting which assets belong to your designated beneficiaries also helps ensure you steer clear of the time-consuming probate process.

3. Establish Your Medical Directives and Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document granting someone permission to act on another’s behalf. The POA agent can make decisions regarding your property, finances, and medical care if you become unable to make these choices yourself. There are several types of POA’s, including limited power of attorneys and durable power of attorneys. While these all are used under different circumstances and situations, it’s crucial to weigh your options carefully when choosing your POA agents, as they play a significant role regarding your health, welfare, and financial affairs. If you’re like many, you may even decide to assign separate individuals to manage your finances and healthcare decisions.

4. Consider Enlisting the Help of a Professional

Hiring an elder law attorney, tax professional, or financial advisor can go a long way in helping you plan your estate and determine if you’re heading in the right direction. These professionals are trained in aspects related to state laws, federal estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and gift taxes. They also can help you navigate your estate plan after experiencing major life changes, such as a new job offer or a marriage or divorce.

For professional guidance on establishing and managing your own estate plan, turn to the experts at Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. We understand that no two estates are identical and will work with you to develop a personalized strategy. Our estate planning attorneys are here to help you and your family better grasp the legal matters related to estate planning and start preparing for what lies ahead. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!

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