As a responsible adult, you try your best to provide for yourself and your family. You likely also try to anticipate what needs you and they may have in the future and prepare for those potential needs. Estate planning is how you go about accomplishing these goals.
Your estate is your net worth, including not only the things you own, but also any loan balances you owe on them. It also includes any rights you have in and to intangible property such as art works, songs, books, or computer programs you create.
Looked at this way, your estate likely is worth more than you realize, consisting of all of the following and more:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, securities, commodities, and other investments
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts, pension plans and 401(K) balances
- Real estate
- Businesses you own or have an ownership interest in
- Copyrights, patents, and trademarks you own
- Personal property like vehicles, jewelry, antiques, etc.
Your Estate Plan Documents
Your estate plan consists of what you do with your assets during your lifetime and how you go about distributing them after your death. This requires numerous legal documents that an estate planning lawyer can draft for you.
Your estate plan can be as simple or as extensive as your needs and wishes dictate. A full estate plan usually includes the following:
- Last will and testament
- Advance healthcare directive
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Financial power of attorney
- Various trusts
Your Estate Plan
As you might expect, creating an effective estate plan is not something you sit down and do in an afternoon. First you need to do some serious thinking about what you want your estate plan to accomplish. For instance, think about the following:
- Do you have a special needs child or other relative you want to provide for?
- Do you want to minimize estate and gift taxes?
- Do you want to protect your assets from creditors as much as possible?
- Do you want to pass down your business to one or more of your children?
- Do you want to provide for the grandchildren you already have, plus any who might be born in the future?
- Do you want to donate to your alma mater or a favorite charity?
- Do you want to provide for your pet’s care after your death?
- Do you have strong beliefs and wishes about the type of end-of-life care you receive?
Be sure to jot down the answers to these and other questions you ask yourself. Then take your list of goals and objectives to an experienced local lawyer, like an estate planning lawyer in New York from Kaplan Law Practice. He or she can help you create an estate plan specific to your needs.