start your estate plan

6 Steps for Beginning the Estate Planning Process

Don’t know where to begin and want to be prepared for your first meeting? Here are 6 steps to make sure you are ready to meet with your lawyer.

1.Make a list of your assets.

Assets include everything you own but you’ll want to start with the major items. Think checking and savings accounts, stock, bonds, annuities, and life insurance policies. Don’t forget your home, any other real estate, vehicles, jewelry, art, and any other personal belongings important to you.

2. Have all of your paperwork together.

Your attorney will likely send you a brief worksheet to complete. Give it careful consideration, fill it in as completely as possible, and you will give your attorney a headstart in making your meeting as productive as possible.

3. Determine if you will plan together.

If you are married, your lawyer may suggest that you create a joint trust (one, shared trust instead of two). However, some situations (e.g. second marriages) can call for spouses to create their own, separate trusts.

4. Who will benefit?

Chances are, you know whom you would like your assets to go to when you pass away. It may be family, friends, charitable causes, or all of the above. Give some thought to what percentages or amounts should go to each person and cause. That way, your attorney can focus on making things happen just the way you want them to.

5. Choose successor trustee(s).

Your successor trustee is the person who will carry out your wishes if you are incapacitated and when you have passed away. He or she will pay debts, distribute assets, and see that your plans are executed. This should be a person you trust implicitly. Give careful thought to this choice and talk to the person you choose to make sure they are willing and able to take on the responsibility.

6. Designate someone to manage your children’s trusts.

If you are leaving assets for minor children (or adult children who need some extra help) you need a trustee to manage those trusts, too. Just like the successor trustee for your revocable living trust, this should be a person capable and trustworthy who is willing to take on this important position. They will be stepping into your shoes for purposes of guiding your children’s financial future.

Now that you know where to begin with the estate planning process, it is time to take action. At Smith Baird, we are here to help. We can create the plan that fits your needs and those of your family. Give us a call today at 912.352.3999

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