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Written by Michelle N. Ogborne

What Do You Need to Begin Estate Planning?

No matter your circumstances, it’s always a good time to start your estate planning, but there are certain times that it seems to come more to the forefront. Perhaps you just got married, divorced, or had a child. Now that you’re ready to get your affairs in order, you need to look at the next steps. So what are those? What exactly do you need to begin estate planning?

Set Aside Time and Create a Deadline

If you’re like most people, you have every good intention of completing things, but then life gets in the way. We’re all busy people. Your estate plan is important, though, and not only for you.

Carve out some time to go through the list of what you need to do to begin your estate plan, and then give yourself a timeline in which to accomplish that preparation. Schedule it on your calendar, and don’t let anything else get it in the way.

Get Your Finances in Order

Before you’re ready to start distributing your estate, you need to know how much you have to share. If you don’t already have one, create a spreadsheet of your assets, your debts, and your net worth. For property and valuables, gather deeds and statements to share with your attorney.

The types of things to consider under your assets list are real estate, vehicles (including boats, bikes, and ATVs), bank accounts (including CDs, savings, and money market), investment accounts, IRAs and pension plans, life insurance, and collections of value. Remember to also include debts associated with or separate from all of those assets.

List Out Your Heirs

Once you know what you have, you need to determine to whom you’re going to give those assets. Make a list of all the people you want to inherit from you, such as spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, significant people in your life, and charitable organizations.

Next, you’ll need to specify how you want everyone to inherit from you. For instance, you may want different children to receive different amounts of money or gifts, perhaps even at different times. And you may have a blended family, so how will you leave money to your spouse and children? These are all considerations you’ll have to take into account before you make your appointment with your estate-planning attorney.

Choose Your Decision Makers

After you’re gone, you’ll need some important people to make decisions on your behalf. Who will be the guardian of your minor children? Who will be the executor of your will? If you become incapacitated who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf?

Sometimes, people make assumptions about these things: “My spouse will do it. I’ll leave the kids to my best friend.” But unfortunately, they don’t often discuss these choices with the designated decision makers, or they don’t think about how hard it could be for a grieving widow to make smart choices about the will, for example, especially if there are children from two marriages.

Spend some time deciding on these names, and be sure to have those all-important conversations and set expectations with these people to be sure they’re on board. It’s not every day that someone is asked to be the executor on a will, so give them time to get used to your decision—and to say no, if need be.

Make an Appointment with an Attorney

You may be thinking that you can create an estate plan on your own, but that’s not the smartest choice. An estate plan involves so many intricacies, and just having a will doesn’t mean your estate will avoid probate. And it gets more complex as your assets and debts grow, you have more heirs, or you own a business.

Instead of taking matters into your own hand, gather your information, ask yourself the hard questions, and then call Ogborne Law Firm. We dedicate ourselves to protecting your business and your family following your death, and we work with you now to make smart choices toward that end.