How to Protect Your Family with Estate Planning

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Last Will and Testament

Last Will and TestamentSix 6 Steps to Protecting Your Loved Ones

Planning for the future can mean different things to different people. However, while we may work toward goals such as securing financial stability or obtaining adequate health care while we are alive, we can sometimes neglect the future that comes after we are gone. That’s where estate planning comes in.

Should something happen to you, a properly prepared estate plan can ensure your loved ones are sufficiently cared for. If the last thing you want to leave behind for your loved ones is financial and emotional burden, then it’s time to learn a few basics about estate planning.

1. Assess your assets

You aren’t helping your family if you only have a vague idea of what you are leaving behind. Seek out a team of estate lawyers to help you assess exactly how much property you own that you will leave in your will.

Things that define as property include:

  • Real estate
  • Cars, boats, and other vehicles
  • Rare collections and other possessions
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
  • Life insurance policies and retirement plans

2. Assign guardians to young children

You may be surprised to learn that estate planning is also used to determine guardians for young children if you are unable to provide care after death or incapacitation. If you do not name a guardian(s) in your will, the court will determine them for you. Additionally, when it comes to property, some states will distribute your property to your children instead of your spouse unless explicitly stated in your will. (Ask your estate lawyers if your state does this.)

3. Try to avoid probate

Probate is the process the court uses to distribute your estate after death or incapacitation. It can be a lengthy, expensive process; for most people, it’s something to be avoided if it can be helped. Here are a couple tips to avoid probate:

  • Create a living trust. A living trust allows you to put your assets in a trust to be transferred to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death or incapacitation, thereby avoiding the court proceedings of probate.
  • Transfer property to a joint owner. Whether you choose your spouse or another person, you can avoid probate by including a right of survivorship to a joint ownership of property. This allows your share of the property to pass on to the surviving owner.

4. Decide your beneficiaries

After you assess what property you are going to leave, you need to decide who will receive it. Whether you are dividing your property among many beneficiaries or a select few, deciding beforehand can greatly reduce or outright prevent a number of potential issues involving the distribution of your property.

5. Make a power of attorney

In estate planning, you may choose power of attorney for your financial matters and your health care. Power of attorney would allow the person you name (called the agent or attorney-in-fact) to take care of these affairs if you are unable. Additionally, a living will (also called a health care directive) can accomplish much of the same health care goals as power of attorney.

6. Make your final arrangements

Part of estate planning may involve making your final arrangements – that is, what will happen to your body after death, such as burial, cremation, or donation.

No matter your age, estate planning can help ensure a secure future for the ones you love. The sooner you set it up and plan it out, the more peace of mind your plan will bring. There are many nuances to proper estate planning – talk to the experts today to make sure your affairs are in order.

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