Planning your estate can be complicated and confusing. There are so many factors to consider and lots of legal steps that must be taken to ensure your will divides your assets as you intend. Planning your estate is the best way to guarantee your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your passing. Although it may seem daunting, a wills and estates lawyer can help.
The following is BF Law’s estate planning checklist to help you make sure your hard-earned money and property is given to the people you choose after your passing.
▢ Create a Last Will and Testament
Every person should have a will. If something should happen and you should pass without a will in place, there is no guidance or direction for your family to consult to determine what should happen to your assets. A will is the best way for you to control who benefits from your life’s work and your assets. Otherwise, your loved ones could become embroiled in a nasty legal battle.
The best thing to do is to work with a probate attorney to ensure your wishes are clearly ad legally delineated. Work with an experienced probate attorney in your area to make sure you have a strong, comprehensive will in place that makes it as easy as possible for your family to divide up your assets according to your wishes.
▢ Itemize Your Valuables
One of the first and most important parts of estate planning is itemizing your assets. This should be a relatively simple task depending on how many physical assets you have. Houses, appliances, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles, art, antiques, and other items of financial value should be included. It is important to be thorough; anything that has financial value should be included in this inventory, especially if there is sentimental value attached to it. Anything that you would like to specifically guarantee to a loved one should be itemized.
▢ Evaluate Other Assets
Once you have examined all of your physical assets and determined where you want them to go, you will need to consider non-physical assets. These may include bank accounts, 401ks, IRAs, and insurance policies, such as life insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, and disability.
▢ Create a List of Debts
Many estates have open debts. Most people have at least one or two sources of debt, so it must be taken into consideration. While planning your estate with your wills and trusts lawyer, be sure to go over all open accounts. Any creditors you know of should be disclosed. This includes:
- Auto loans
- Home equity lines of credit
- Student loans
- Credit card debt
- Personal loans
Include account numbers and any contact information you have available to you for these accounts. You will want to update your attorney as soon as any of these things change or if you open a new account. You need to update your will every few years in the first place, but a major financial change is a good reason to contact your probate attorney ahead of schedule. They should be aware at all times of the accounts that are open in your name that might affect your estate.
▢ Designate Beneficiaries
Choosing the specific people who will benefit from your estate can be tough. You don’t want to upset or offend anyone, and you also want to leave your assets to those that can responsibly manage and benefit from them. It can be very difficult to make these assessments and determinations.
Talk with your family and friends. Try to look at things in as objective a way as possible. While you may love a family member or friend very much and want to provide for them, there could be factors that stand in the way of them handling financial assets in an appropriate or responsible way. You need to think about these circumstances and situations in a realistic way and make the best, safest, and most appropriate choices.
Work with your probate attorney to ensure the right beneficiaries are chosen for your estate.
▢ Plan Advance Directives
It is very important to include advance directives in your estate. These documents clearly outline your intentions when it comes to things like your medical care should you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself. These are critical legal documents that must be drafted with the help of a lawyer for medical power of attorney. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to the potential for anyone close to you to have input.
Most people want to be the ultimate decision-makers in such cases, so make sure to bring this up with your probate attorney while planning your estate.
Procrastinating can lead to serious problems when it comes to estate planning. Anyone with assets needs to ensure they are allocated to the proper parties with a thorough will and estate plan. A probate lawyer can help you deal with the difficult choices that surround planning your estate and make sure your will is iron-clad.
Contact a Maryland Wills and Estates Lawyers
If you are interested in planning your estate, contact Blackford & Flohr today. Our experienced Maryland probate attorneys can help you develop a strong and thorough estate plan that accounts for all possibilities and ensures your wishes are honored. Call (410) 647-6677 to speak with a wills and estates lawyer in Maryland today.