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July 01, 2020

Estate Planning: Where Do I Begin?

You may be interested in estate planning, but don’t know how to get started. If that sounds like you, this article may offer some valuable insights.

Where do I begin? This is a question I get asked quite often, in the context of estate planning.

1. Sit down with an estate planning attorney. Most attorneys offer a free consultation. This process involves talking about your family, assets, and goals. It is a painless but essential part of the process.

2. Your attorney will tell you about a variety of documents that can help you achieve your goals. They will make recommendations based on your unique situation and priorities.

There are indeed “al a carte” options if you only need a specific document. However, you will typically choose either a “Will-based Estate Plan” or a “Trust-based Estate Plan.”*

Will-based Estate Plan

– Last Will and Testament

– Financial Power of Attorney

– Health Care Power of Attorney

– Advance Health Care Directive

Trust-based Estate Plan

– Pour-over Will

– Revocable Living Trust

– Financial Power of Attorney

– Health Care Power of Attorney

– Advance Health Care Directive

3. Estate planning empowers you to care for loved ones, make financial & health care decisions, manage the distribution of your property, and minimize unnecessary taxes & expenses.

4. Your attorney will help you make decisions regarding the highly customizable content of these documents.

5. Next, your attorney will prepare drafts of your estate plan for your approval.

6. You and your attorney will likely exchange emails (or phone calls/in-person meetings—whatever your preference) to adjust and fine-tune.

7. Once you are satisfied and feel comfortable, you will then sign the final drafts of the documents. The signing will likely be at your attorney’s office in the presence of a notary and two witnesses.

8. A completed estate plan should be reviewed by an attorney every 3-5 years or when you experience a significant life change (moving, marriage/divorce, purchase of real estate).

*These descriptions are of frequently used estate planning models. Each situation is unique, and recommendations for you could vary.

This article represents the opinion of the author and is intended for educational purposes. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. One should always consult with an experienced attorney before making estate planning decisions.

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