If you are contemplating creating an estate plan for the first time, you may be a bit intimidated by the entire concept. If so, you are hardly alone. One of the most common reasons people give for not having an estate plan in place is that they are unsure where to start and view the entire process as a daunting one. You will likely find, however, that once you get started it is much easier than you thought, particularly if you work with an experienced estate planning attorney. In order to help you get started, use the following guide to get the most out of your Long Island estate planning services.
Define Your Estate Planning Goals Ahead of Time
Although your primary estate planning goal may be to create a roadmap for the distribution for your estate assets when you are gone, a comprehensive estate plan can accomplish much more than this. With that in mind, take some time to define all your estate planning goals before you meet with an estate planning attorney. Your estate plan will be unique to you and your needs; however, some common estate planning goals include:
- Incapacity planning
- Probate avoidance
- Retirement planning
- Pet planning
- Tax avoidance
- Business succession planning
- LGBT planning
- Medicaid planning
- Special needs planning
Know Your Assets and Liabilities
Like most people, you probably have a general idea of your financial situation; however, creating a successful estate planning requires you to know your assets and liabilities in detail. With that in mind, spend some time creating lists of your assets and liabilities with as much detail as possible. Include account numbers and current values as well as the names of co-owners and designated beneficiaries when applicable.
Decide on Beneficiaries and Fiduciaries
Many of your beneficiaries will be easy to name, such as a spouse and/or children; however, there may be additional beneficiaries that you do not wish to overlook when you spend some time thinking about it. For example, if you make charitable donations on a regular basis you may want to include charity in your estate plan as well.
You will also need to decide on fiduciary roles within your plan, including your Executor, a Guardian for minor children, and a Trustee, if applicable. One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating an estate plan is appointing fiduciaries without considering if the individual is the best person for the job.
Make Use of Additional Tools and Strategies
Although your Last Will and Testament will likely serve as the foundation for your estate plan, be open to incorporating additional tools and strategies into your plan to help you achieve your various goals. You might, for example, include any, or all, of the following additional tools into your plan:
- Trust agreement
- Power of attorney
- Advanced directives
- Letter of instruction
Review and Revise to Make the Most of Your Long Island Estate Planning Services
Once your initial estate plan is in place, you will need to review and revise that plan in order to make the most out of your plan. Your estate plan should be reviewed as a matter of routine about every three to five years. In addition, certain life events should prompt an immediate review and revision of your estate plan, including:
- Marriage or divorce – both yours and that of a beneficiary in some cases
- Birth or death of a beneficiary or fiduciary
- Move to another state
- Substantial change in assets or debts
- Purchase or sale of a business
- Changes in the law that impact your estate plan
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about getting the most out of your Long Island estate planning services, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.