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Do You Understand Today’s Estate Planning?’s May 27, 2016 post, “Getting started is the first step in estate planning,” points out that a definition for estate planning is “the creation, preservation, and maximization of assets for the future.” This now includes a lifetime component, known as “financial planning,” and a component that concerns the planning for the orderly preservation of assets after death and their distribution.

You may have started to do some estate planning with the purchase of life insurance, which is creating an asset—a death benefit—and planning for its distribution through a beneficiary designation. It’s the same when you name a beneficiary for a qualified retirement plan.

But how do you get started in the process of formal estate planning?

The first step is to find a qualified estate planning lawyer and meet him or her for an initial interview.

You can find a qualified estate planning attorney by asking friends and associates for a recommendation. This is the start of your estate planning team. He or she will consult with your other advisors to create the best possible options for achieving the planning goals that you’ve established with their assistance.

Some folks’ estate planning consists of a simple will, but for others, it may include a will, trusts, new life insurance, powers of attorney, a living will, and other legal instruments. Once you have these documents executed, you need to review them periodically with your lawyer because circumstances, affections, and family dynamics change. Your estate planning documents will in many cases need to be changed and updated accordingly.

Here are a few other reminders:

  1. Your planning should coordinate your insurance policies with the provisions of your will to be sure that your goals are achieved;

  2. Designate in your will specifics as to how you want your property distributed and who you want to serve as the guardian of your underage children. Without a will, the state decides these important issues; and finally,

  3. Resist the temptation to go online and write your own legal documents. Estate planning attorneys are trained to make certain that no mistakes are made, no laws are ignored, and no invalid provisions are included. Errors or confusion can make for messy, lengthy, and expensive contests of the will in court.

  4. Be proactive about your estate planning. To choose for yourself who takes care of your children or who gets your assets after you have passed, you must have a valid will.

Reference: (May 27, 2016) “Getting started is the first step in estate planning”

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