Have you already created your inheritance plan? If not, you are hardly alone. Over half of all Americans do not have an estate (inheritance) plan in place despite admitting that they are aware of the need for one. One of the most frequently offered explanations for the lack of a plan is not knowing where, or how, to begin. Given the fact that inheritance planning is not something most people know much about, this explanation makes sense. If you fall into the category of people who have yet to start your inheritance planning because you don’t know how to go about doing so, you may benefit from the following Garden City inheritance planning check list.
Inheritance Planning Basics
Before looking over the following inheritance planning check list, it may help to learn a few estate planning basics. Although your primary goal may initially be to create the framework for the distribution of your estate assets after your death, keep in mind that a comprehensive estate plan can accomplish a number of additional goals and objectives as well. As you read through the check list, some of those additional goals and objectives will become clear.
Your Inheritance Planning Check List
Keep in mind that some of the items on the check list may not apply to your specific situation, or may apply to you later on in your life.
- Defining goals. Before you can really get started with your inheritance plan you need to sit down and define your estate planning goals. Ensuring that you do not leave behind an intestate estate may be your primary incentive to create your plan; however, you will likely have related goals you wish to achieve with your plan as well, such as incapacity planning.
- Assessing your assets and liabilities. You undoubtedly have a pretty good idea of what your net worth is; however, when you start focusing on the details of your inheritance plan you will need details relating to your assets and liabilities as well. The easiest way to handle this is to make two lists – one for assets and one for liabilities. Include as much information as possible by each entry so your Executor can use the lists as well when the time comes to probate your estate.
- Identifying beneficiaries and special bequests. Your primary beneficiaries are easy – spouse, children, family and friends; however, you may also want to add a charity or even your family pet once you really think about it. Also, start thinking about specific bequests you wish to make,
- Choosing fiduciaries. Do not make the common mistake of appointing fiduciaries, such as your Executor or a Trustee, without taking the time to really consider who is right for the position.
- Protecting a minor child’s inheritance. If you are a parent, keep in mind that your minor child cannot inherit directly from your estate. It is crucial that you include tools, such as a trust, to protect your child’s inheritance until he/she reaches the age of majority.
- Planning to avoid probate. This will become more important as your estate, and your family, grows. Probate can be costly, both in terms of time and money. Fortunately, there are several tools and strategies that you may be able to use to help your estate avoid probate. The key is to limit your probate assets because not all assets are required to go through probate. Commonly used assets that bypass the probate process (non-probate assets) include:
- Assets held in a trust
- Certain types of jointly held property
- Proceeds of a life insurance policy
- Assets held in an account designated as “payable on death (POD)” or “transfer on death (TOD)”
- Most retirement and pension accounts
- Consulting with an experienced inheritance planning attorney. Once you are ready to sit down and put your inheritance plan together, you need to consult with an experienced inheritance planning attorney. Do not make the mistake of trying to DIY your inheritance plan. The Do-It-Yourself forms you find on the internet will almost always create problems for your loved ones when it comes time to actually probate your estate. The relatively small account of money you save now could end up costing your loved ones a small fortune in legal fees down the road.
Contact Garden City Inheritance Planning Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about inheritance planning, or you are ready to get started on your plan, contact the experienced estate planning lawyers at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.