Seven Ways to Make a Strong Estate Plan

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Did you know that when your estate goes into probate it automatically loses value? Depending on the estate, that loss can be an estimated five percent. Your estate can also wind up tied up probate courts for years depending on your family circumstances and the strength of your planning. So, how do you make a strong estate plan that can keep these events from happening?

Seven Steps to a Strong Estate Plan

  1. Make a List of Your Assets – When they pass, some people don’t let their families know what accounts and assets they hold. Considering this digital age where you can set up trading, savings, and insurance policies online, this can make it hard to track your assets. Leaving a list of your accounts and access information can help fight this confusion.
  2. Consider Your Taxes – Though California doesn’t have a state inheritance tax, that doesn’t mean you can ignore tax issues. Are there any government liens on your property? Do you owe the IRS money? Does your estate exceed the federal exemption for estate tax? Find the answers to these questions so you can plan accordingly.
  3. Check Beneficiaries – Do you have an IRA, 401k or life insurance policies? If so, it’s a good idea to check regularly to make sure their beneficiary information is correct. Clerical errors and computer glitches can accidentally erase this vital information, so make sure everything is on the up-and-up.
  4. Setup Your Medical/Palliative Care – Do you wish to pass at home, or in a hospital? Do you want resuscitative efforts spent on you, or would you rather pass peacefully? Though people don’t like to think about these questions, they are key to your estate planning. Letting your loved ones know your medical wishes can prevent arguments and help keep your descendants out of court once you are gone.
  5. Take Care of the Little Things – Some items are priceless to us emotionally, though they may not carry a big price tag. Make sure heirlooms, photo albums and other sentimental items pass on to those you love and cherish. If a plan isn’t made for these items, they could be sold off or given to the wrong people in the probate process.
  6. Plan Regardless of Wealth – So, you don’t have an estate worth millions of dollars. So, you don’t have a fleet of cars and boats. So, your bank accounts aren’t stuffed with cash. As long as you have a legacy, you have something to protect after your passing. Don’t neglect it.
  7. Seek Professional Help – Online services and forms rarely take care of the minute details every estate plan’s needs. A professional estate and trust counselor knows these details and can leverage his or her experience to make sure your will is followed. Contacting a professional should be a key part of crafting a lasting legacy for your family. Making sure your plan is legally binding is probably the most important part of creating a strong estate plan.

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