Estate Law 101 – It’s Important to Be Prepared

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If you’re like the vast majority of people in this world, then you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about dying. Why would you? It’s an incredibly depressing thing to think about. However, the truth of the matter is that it’s going to happen at some point in time, and it’s better to be prepared. Getting a will in place now is the best way to ensure that your assets go to the people you want them to go to. It may not be fun and exciting to think about what is going to happen when you are gone, but it’s necessary. If you don’t put a plan in place, your loved ones may not get any of your assets. This could leave them in a challenging financial position

When getting your will together, there are some things you’ll need to consider.

1. Work with a Professional

The internet has made it easy to do a lot of things, including creating a will. While this may seem like the easiest way to take care of this task, it could wind up costing you. Most of the sites that offer this service are incredibly general. That means that if your state has specific estate laws, your will may not be in compliance with them. If your will isn’t valid, your loved ones may not get what has been left to them.

Instead, it’s a good idea to work with an estate lawyer in your state to create your will. There are a lot of confusing terms within estate law that you may need help with. If you live in Kentucky and you have questions, you have the option of contacting probate attorneys in Lexington to help you get your affairs in order. No matter where you live, work with a professional to ensure that your final wishes are in compliance with the law.

2. Make a List of Your Assets

To make the process easier, make sure you have a list of all of your assets before you talk to the lawyer. This will include items such as bank accounts, credit cards, retirement funds and investments, among others. Knowing what assets you have is the first step in determining who gets what. Not only will you need to consider traditional properties, but you’ll also need to consider digital and biological assets as well. For example, if you have your own business and you bought your domain name, is this something that you want to will to someone else? Say a business partner or a child who will be taking over? Do you have investments in bitcoins? If so, who will these be left to?

 

Biological assets might include leftover embryos if you conceived children through fertility treatments. Since this is something that belongs to you, you’ll need to decide what happens to them when you are gone. Once you have gotten this information together, make sure it’s easy for your family to access it. Putting it in a safe deposit box that only you can get into makes this challenging. You can still lock this information away, but make sure that someone else has a key or the ability to access where the information is stored.

3. Double Check Your Beneficiary Designations

When you fill out forms for life insurance, annuities, and IRAs, you are asked to name beneficiaries. These are the people who will get the money from these accounts when you die. These designations override anything that you put into your will. Thus, you need to make sure that the beneficiaries you currently have listed on these accounts are the individuals you want the money to go to. This is also a good time to double-check the amounts each one will receive. If you discover that the people listed on these accounts aren’t the ones you want the money to go to, then you’ll need to get those changed. The process for how this is handled will depend on the company. It may only require making a phone call, or you may have a lot of paperwork to fill out.

4. Be Selective When It Comes to Your Guardians and Trustees

If you have children under the age of 18, then you’ll need to decide who will take care of them should something happen to you and your spouse. It’s a good idea that you don’t designate the same person to be the guardian and the trustee. Having one person in charge of everything could become problematic. Should your children be older and no longer need a guardian, then you might suggest that they look for a financial planner. Depending on the amount of money they will be getting when you are gone, they may not know how to handle it. This could lead to unwise investments. However, if they have some guidance, they can make good financial decisions and have the funds to keep them comfortable for a long time to come.

 

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5. Keep Your Will Up to Date

Putting a will in place is beneficial and ensures that your assets (and potentially your children) go to the people you want them to go to. Working with a professional is the best way to ensure that you are in compliance with state laws. Once you have your will in place, don’t think that your job is done. It is recommended that you meet with your estate lawyer at least every 5 years. The tax and estate laws can change during that time, and you want to make sure you are still following the rules. In addition, it’s possible that you may want to change who you are leaving your assets to. Meeting with your lawyer will ensure that the changes get made.

Take Care of This As Soon As Possible

It’s never too early to create a will. You may have dreams of living into old age, but you never know when your time will come. Make sure your family is taken care of and that your assets go to the people you find worthy.

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