Creating a comprehensive and properly drafted estate plan is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself and to your loved ones over the course of your lifetime. When creating that plan, the advice and guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney will be crucial to the overall success of the plan once it is implemented. In the meantime, the estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia offer the following five tips to help you create a successful estate plan.
- Ignore myths and misconceptions. One of the most important tips is fairly simple – do not buy into any of the common myths and misconceptions regarding estate planning. The most common of those are that you don’t need a plan until you have made your “fortune” and that you should wait until you are married and/or become a parent to bother with an estate plan. The truth is that every adult needs an estate plan, regardless of the size or value of their estate. Without a plan, the State of New York will dictate what happens to your assets, many of which may be priceless heirlooms or be of great sentimental value. In addition, although your plan will need to be updated when your family grows, the fact that you have yet to marry and/or become a parent has no bearing on the need for an estate plan.
- Choose your Executor wisely. When you create your Last Will and Testament you will be required to appoint an Executor who will oversee the probate of your estate after your death. A common mistake is to appoint a spouse, family member or close friend without taking the time to consider if that person is really the best person for the job. When contemplating your choice, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this person be grieving your loss? If so, can he/she get a handle on that grief sufficiently to act as Executor?
- Does the individual have a legal or financial background that might be beneficial during the probate process?
- Does this person have the time to devote to probating your estate?
- Does the person live too far away to be the Executor?
- Is the proposed Executor good at conflict resolution?
- Will the appointment of this person spark conflict?
- Does the individual want to be your Executor? Never assume the answer to this question is yes.
- Know Your Assets and Liabilities. You probably have a vague idea of your assets and liabilities; however, when you sit down to start on your estate plan you need to know both in detail. Start creating two lists – one for assets and one for liabilities. For each item on the lists, include a detailed description, current value or amount owed, location, and account passwords if applicable. Once your lists are created, you will simply need to update them from time to time as you acquire or sell assets.
- Incorporate incapacity planning into your plan. Over your lifetime, you will likely add numerous components to your estate plan as the need arises. One component that should be included from the beginning, however, is incapacity planning. When people think of incapacity they tend to envision someone who is elderly and suffering from Alzheimer’s, or a related condition. While conditions such as Alzheimer’s certainly can cause incapacity, the reality is that incapacity can strike anyone at any time. In fact, you stand a one in five chance of suffering a period of disability that lasts at least five months prior to reaching retirement age. Add in the possibility of a tragic accident or debilitating illness and the possibility of incapacity increases dramatically.
- Do not go the DIY route. In the age of the internet it can be tempting to use DIY estate planning forms you encounter online in an effort to save time and/or money. Inevitably, using DIY forms ends up costing your loved ones considerably more time and money because of the errors and mistakes that are commonly found in those forms. Given the importance of your estate plan, working with an experienced estate planning attorney is imperative.
Contact Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about creating your estate plan, contact the New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.