Working with an experienced Baton Rouge will and trust lawyer to create a comprehensive estate plan can seem like a daunting process. Let’s face it: the decisions you have to make, the information you have to gather, and the sheer amount of paperwork involved are enough to make anyone pause.
That’s why it’s so important not to go it alone and create a DIY estate plan; instead, it’s best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. You’ll have the benefit of working with someone who has helped people just like you to make the same kind of decisions. Those decisions ended up giving them the peace of mind that their affairs are in order and their wishes are known to their loved ones.
Ready to learn more? Here’s a quick run-through of the 10 steps you’ll take to create an estate plan:
- Choose the people you trust to make decisions for you
Estate planning is all about choosing people you trust to make decisions for you if you’re incapacitated, have passed away, or simply want someone else to handle those decisions for you. You’ll want to consider the best people to make medical decisions, handle your finances, and settle your estate. Keep in mind that it does not have to be the same person for each task.
- Decide who gets what after you pass away
Choosing beneficiaries is a key part of your estate plan. Sometimes it’s very straightforward: all your assets will pass to your spouse or children. In other cases, such as a blended family or in a situation where there is no next-of-kin, you may need to get a little creative. Either way, you’ll want to have a clear idea of who gets what when you pass away.
- Create a list of financial accounts
A list of all your financial accounts, both solely-held and jointly-owned, is critical information for whoever you choose to take care of your finances. Hidden bank accounts can eat up a lot of time, money, and resources to track down, and if they’re never found, they can end up surrendered to the state.
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date
Out-of-date beneficiary designations can cause a serious headache for your executor and beneficiaries. In most cases, a designation that names a person who is already dead will cause that insurance policy or retirement account to go through probate and cost your estate money.
- Locate any property deeds
Many estate plans involve transferring ownership of property from one person to another, or from a person to a trust. Securing a copy of your deed will make this process go much smoother.
- Make funeral arrangements
No one wants to think about funeral arrangements, but the more planning you do before you pass away, the better it will be for your loved ones. A funeral director can help you learn more about pre-paid funeral plans and other ways to ease the burden for your loved ones.
- Find a local, experienced estate planning attorney
You’ll want to find an attorney who understands the ins and outs of estate planning law who can help you make difficult decisions. Keep in mind that if you own property in two or more different states, you need to find a lawyer who is licensed to practice in those states. Your attorney here in Louisiana can also provide you with a referral if you need help with this process.
- Sign your estate planning documents
Signing your estate planning documents is one of the last steps in the process. You’ll typically sign multiple copies of each document (except your Last Will and Testament and your Trust) to ensure you have original copies for everyone who might need one.
- Store your estate planning documents somewhere safe
Your documents should be stored somewhere safe but also somewhere that is easy for your loved ones to get to if they ever need the documents. Some lawyers will offer to hold onto one original copy of each document and some lawyers will send you home with the originals to store in a safe place. Make sure you know if you or the lawyer’s office has the original documents.
- Talk to your family
The most important step is to talk to your family about your decisions – the choices you made and why you made them, as well as your wishes for what happens if you’re incapacitated or have died. These discussions aren’t always easy to have in person, so you may consider writing a note that explains all of these things that can be read after you pass away.
If you have any questions about creating an estate plan, or if you have an existing estate plan and want to update it for your current situation, please contact us at (225) 744-0027 to set up a consultation with a Baton Rouge will and trust lawyer.