For the average person, estate planning is mysterious at best and downright intimidating at worst. This makes complete sense given the fact that the average person has no reason to understand anything about estate planning until they sit down to start creating a plan. The problem is that human nature tends to cause people to avoid things they don’t understand. Consequently, over half of all Americans do not have even a basic estate plan in place despite acknowledging the need for one. To help you get started with your plan, the estate planning attorneys at German Law Group offer the following top five tips.
- It is never too early to start planning. A common myth about estate planning is that it isn’t really necessary to start creating an estate plan until you have amassed a small fortune and/or until you have reached an arbitrary age at which estate planning becomes relevant. The truth, however, is that every adult can benefit from having an estate plan in place without regard to the value of their estate, their marital status, or their age.
- Think big when creating your plan. Your initial estate plan may consist of nothing more than a simple Last Will and Testament; however, try to think big when planning. It is difficult to imagine a scenario wherein your estate plan has too many components. On the other hand, it is frequently the case that an estate plan has too few components, meaning something critical isn’t covered. For instance, every estate plan should have an incapacity planning component because incapacity could happen to anyone at any time. In the absence of a plan, you have no way of knowing who will make health care decisions for you nor who will control your assets during your incapacity.
- Updating your plan is just as important as creating it. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to create an estate plan and then forget about it. This can have some fairly serious unintended consequences. An ex-spouse could end up receiving a large life insurance payout or major assets could be left out of the plan completely. A routine review and revision should be done every three to five years during your working years and every five to ten years once you reach your “Golden Years.” In addition, certain life events call for a more immediate update, such as your own divorce, the birth of a child, a child reaching the age of majority, or the move to a new state.
- Do not try to go the DIY route. With the proliferation of the internet, it can be easy to rely on the internet to locate just about anything, including fill-in-the-blank legal forms. It may seem like a great way to save both time and money but in the long run, your loved ones may pay the price for the time and money you saved. DIY legal forms are frequently riddled with errors and out of date language. In addition, they are not state specific and frequently fail to accomplish the intended goal. Most importantly, there is no substitute for experienced legal advice. When it comes time to probate your estate, your loved ones may end up in protracted, and possibly contentious, litigation because of the DIY forms you used. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to prevent this from happening.
- Share the basic highlights of your plan to avoid future conflicts. You are certainly not required to divulge the details of your estate plan to loved ones; however, doing so can head off conflict and litigation down the road. When heirs/beneficiaries are surprised by the terms of an estate plan they are more likely to question the validity of the documents used to create the plan. By sharing the basics of your estate plan ahead of time, questions can be asked and answered. Someone may not like the plan, but there will be less likelihood of an actual contest when your plan is called into action.
Contact North Dakota Estate Planning Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about intestate succession laws, or you wish to get started creating your Will, contact the estate planning lawyers at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.
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