Creating your first estate plan can be an exciting, yet equally intimidating, prospect. Understandably, most people are unfamiliar with the terminology, tools, and strategies that go into estate planning. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare can help your initial estate planning experience be both beneficial and enjoyable. With that in mind, the Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain common steps involved in creating your first estate plan.
- Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. You can find a wide range of estate planning “fill-in-the-blanks” forms on the internet; however, the odds are high that the form you find will have significant errors and/or omissions that could ultimately cost your loved ones a significant amount of time and money when it comes to probating your estate. Instead of risking the success of your plan by going the DIY route, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about your estate plan.
- Define your goals. Your initial estate planning goal may simply be the distribution of your estate assets after you are gone; however, a comprehensive estate plan can help you achieve numerous other goals as well, such as incapacity planning, protecting the inheritance of a minor child, or planning for the impact taxes on your estate.
- Assess your assets. You undoubtedly have a fairly good idea of what assets you own; however, for the purpose of creating an estate plan you should make a detailed list, including current value, location, and identifying information (account number, registration number, lot number etc.)
- Assess your liabilities. Make the same list for your liabilities that you made for your assets, including the amount you currently owe and to whom.
- Decide on your beneficiaries. For the most part, your beneficiaries will be easy enough to identify; however, there may be a few less obvious beneficiaries on the list. Your pet, for example, or a favorite charity might be included once you give it some thought. You also need to think about substitute or successor beneficiaries in case one of your beneficiaries predeceases you.
- Choose your fiduciaries. Choosing your fiduciaries is one of the most important decisions you will make when creating your estate plan. This is also where people frequently make costly mistakes. Before appointing a spouse, adult child, or best friend as your Executor, for example, stop and consider if that person is really the best choice for the position. The same holds true for naming a Trustee for a trust you create as part of your plan. A Trustee’s duties and responsibilities are numerous and varied and ideally require a background in law or finance. You may wish to consider a professional Trustee to ensure that your trust is successful. As with your beneficiaries, you will also need to think about successor fiduciaries in case your first choice cannot or will not serve.
- Create documents. A surprising amount of litigation centers on the improper drafting and execution of estate planning documents. To avoid this, make sure that your documents are drafted by an estate planning attorney and executed properly and according to applicable state and federal law.
- Remember to review and revise your plan. Among the most common estate planning mistakes is failing to review and revise the plan they create. To ensure that your plan continues to contemplate all your current needs, make sure to review the plan every few years as well as when a life event prompts an immediate update.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to create your first estate plan, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.