Regardless of a person's age, net worth, or assets, every adult should have some type of estate plan in place. A solid estate plan can protect your legacy and ensure that your loved ones are looked after once you're gone. Below are a few tips for designing an airtight arrangement for your needs and goals.
Know your options.
A will is essential to any successful estate plan. This is the document in which you name beneficiaries, divide assets, and appoint an executor to oversee the resolution of the estate. But there are other options that may be worth exploring in addition to a will. A living trust, for instance, is a popular way to avoid the often lengthy and involved probate process; with a living trust, you transfer ownership of specific parts of your estate to the trust, and upon your death, ownership passes to the appointed beneficiary — all without the interference of probate.
Include a durable power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney is an estate planning arrangement in which you name someone to make specific legal or financial decisions if you become incapacitated by illness, injury, or age. Be sure to nominate a trustworthy individual who can handle the responsibility of making complex, legally binding decisions on your behalf. Discuss your wishes with them prior to naming them in a durable power of attorney.
Forget children or pets.
A will is where you state who will look after your minor or dependent children. You can make special requests for their upbringing, such as where they attend school or whether they attend religious services, as well as direct the guardians to any funds set aside for the kids. Do the same for pets as well. You may consider them your family members, but courts consider pets to be property.
Neglect to update your plans.
Once you've finished with your estate planning, don't sign it and file it away somewhere where it is promptly forgotten. The plans should reflect life in the here and now, but major changes will almost certainly occur at some point in the future. There will be births and deaths; marriages, divorces, or deaths of spouses; windfalls or unexpected financial setbacks.
Make sure your plans take these changes into account and are updated regularly. Neglecting regular revisions will leave your heirs with an estate plan that does not match the size and scope of the estate itself, which will complicate probate and throw the efficacy of the will into question.
When you need help with estate planning, contact a lawyer. Steven P. Ciardiello, Esq., P.C., has served Hamden, CT, and the surrounding areas for over 30 years. He offers representation in estate planning, real estate cases, work and personal injuries, and bankruptcy law claims. Call (203) 248-8000 or visit his website to schedule a consultation.