I don’t have an estate plan. Where do I start?

Family Caregiving, Personal Finance October 27, 2012|Print

Ask yourself:

1. What do I have that I want to go to someone when I die?

2. What do I have in place to protect myself if I become incapacitated and cannot act for myself?

3. What have I done to see that most of my estate goes to my heirs or who I want it to go to?

These three questions will help you see areas you may want to address in an estate plan. Below is some information to gather before you see an attorney. A question that is frequently asked is, “Do I need an attorney?” While it may be legal to do-it-yourself, it’s not advisable. Attorneys can help you develop documents that say exactly what you mean so that your wishes are carried out. They can also help you understand the ins and outs of inheritance laws and estate taxes.

Here are a few suggestions for being prepared before going to see an attorney:

• Gather personal information about yourself and other family members. This would include such things as legal names, birth dates, addresses and telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, marital status, employers, and citizenship status.

• Determine what you own and what you owe, the value of these items, and how property is titled. Also include where the items and relevant documentation are located.

• Decide what is important to you. Who do you want to provide for through your estate plan? How do you want property distributed? How do you define “fair?” Who do you want to speak on your behalf in case you are unable to speak for yourself? Who do you want to take care of your minor children?

• Discuss your thoughts with your spouse and family members. Who do you want to take care of you if you become incapacitated, and who do you want to manage your assets? You do not have to have the same person do both. Who do you want to manage a family business or farm if you become incapacitated or at your death?

Then contact an attorney or other qualified legal advisor in your area.

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