How Do I Get Started with an Estate Plan?

The idea behind estate planning is to provide instructions for how you want your assets to be handled after you pass away or become incapacitated. While this topic may not be fun to think about, it’s important if you want to ensure that your legacy is passed on in the way you want it to be to the next generation. Those who are new to estate planning are encouraged to talk with an estate planning lawyer, like an estate planning lawyer in Sacramento, CA, for guidance. 

What types of belongings do I need to document?
When creating an estate plan, you will need to document all of your belongings. Even someone who thinks they don’t have many assets may realize they have more than they originally thought after doing a deeper investigation. You may be surprised with just how long your list gets of both tangible and intangible assets. The types of belongings that you will need to inventory include:

  • Vehicles, motorcycles, or boats
  • Home, real estate, or land
  • Collectibles (art, trading cards, antiques, coins, etc.)
  • Other personal and sentimental items
  • Retirement accounts (401k, individual)
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stocks, mutual funds, and bonds
  • Life insurance policies
  • Business ownership information
  • Health savings accounts

After you have created a list of your assets, you will then have to get their value evaluated. If needed, you can hire an appraiser to view your collections, home, or other tangible items if you aren’t sure of their worth. 

Who can I choose as beneficiaries?
Beneficiaries are the people that you want to give assets to, whether it is a tangible item or a monetary amount. Your beneficiaries can be your spouse, children, other family members, close friends, or even charitable organizations. Your attorney can help you complete the necessary paperwork to ensure that your beneficiaries are promptly given their share of assets after your passing. Here are a few tips when reviewing your beneficiary documentation: 

  • There should be no blank beneficiary sections. If you leave open boxes, then if your assets go through probate, the court may distribute based on state laws for who gets what property. 
  • Revisit your beneficiary list every few years. Sometimes relationships grow or dissipate, or perhaps you went through a divorce and need to remove your former spouse’s name as a beneficiary. Your attorney can help you make updates as needed as things change in life. 
  • Write down contingent beneficiaries, just in case the primary beneficiary passes away before you and you got the chance to update the estate plan.
  • Review your insurance and retirement accounts, as there is typically a beneficiary designation listed. Those named as beneficiaries on these documents may outweigh what is written in the will. 

Do I need help from an estate planning attorney?
A person who is new to creating an estate plan is strongly encouraged to get guidance from a lawyer who understands the nuances of estate planning. Having a professional review your estate plan can help prevent asset disputes or other issues from happening after you have passed away. 

Thanks to Yee Law Group, PC for their insight into how to begin creating an estate plan.