Who Should Engage in Estate Planning With an Estate Planning Attorney (and Starting When?)

When you hear the term “estate plan,” you may believe that you don’t really need one. However, the majority of people have more assets than they think, and the estate planning process ensures those assets end up where they want them to go. Consequently, the majority of people need an estate plan.

Because of the complexities that can occur with asset distribution, working with an estate planning attorney is the smartest option for creating this plan. This legal professional can find ways to help you reach your goals for the estate plan. Your estate planning attorney may even give you some ideas for goals that you didn’t consider on your own.

What Is Estate Planning?

The estate planning process involves taking steps to set up legal documentation for the distribution of the assets you own upon your death.

If you own property, have financial accounts, or hold investment products, the estate plan sets up beneficiary designations for these assets. Some of the other key aspects of the estate plan may include:

  • Creating a will
  • Assigning power of attorney if you become incapacitated
  • Trust creation
  • Taking steps to minimize estate taxes
  • Setting up guardians for dependents

Your estate planning attorney can help you decide which of these aspects of an estate plan fit your life.

How Do I Know Whether I Need an Estate Plan?

Although some people believe only wealthy individuals need an estate plan, this simply isn’t the case. If you have any owned items — financial or sentimental — that you want to give to other specific people when you die, you need an estate plan.

At a minimum, anyone who owns assets could use the estate plan to try to avoid going through the probate process. Even if you believe you only have a small number of assets, you will want to avoid probate. After all, it’s your beneficiaries who have to put up with these problems when you don’t have an estate plan.

When Should I Start My Estate Plan?

It’s easy for people to agree that they need an estate plan. However, it’s just as easy for them to put off the process. After all, no one expects to pass away suddenly.

Unfortunately, some people do pass away suddenly. Consequently, an estate planning attorney would always recommend that you should start your estate plan immediately. 

The only people who probably don’t need an estate plan are children. Once you become a legal adult, usually at age 18, you have financial responsibilities. This means an estate plan is beneficial starting at age 18 for your surviving family members to have on hand in case of a fatal accident. 

Starting Estate Planning in Conjunction With Major Life Milestones

When you achieve a major life milestone, it’s often a good time to either start an estate plan or, better yet, to update an existing plan. Such events often involve major changes to your life, and your estate plan needs to be as up to date with these events as possible.

Some of the major life milestones that should spark you to update or start an estate plan include:

  • Turning 18 years of age
  • Opening a new savings or retirement account
  • Purchasing life insurance
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Changing jobs with a significant change in salary
  • Having a child or grandchild
  • Having your children marry or divorce
  • Going on a long trip
  • Being diagnosed with a severe illness
  • Preparing for major surgery
  • Inheriting money

How To Start an Estate Plan

An estate planning attorney will walk you through the steps of creating an estate plan. You may find that it’s not as challenging as you expected.

You’ll start by making a list of the assets that you own. It’s important for this initial list to be as accurate and thorough as possible. Although we can update the plan in the future to account for changes in your life, accuracy from the beginning simplifies the process.

You then will want to decide where each asset goes. Determining who will acquire each asset can be a difficult process, but it’s an important step. Do not avoid it just because of the stress involved with making these decisions.

Contact Our Estate Planning Attorney Today

One of the biggest benefits of using a local estate planning attorney is that you can be certain your plan remains current. Our team checks in with you regularly to see if we need to make any changes.

To learn more about what we can do for you, call David E. Anderson, PLLC, at (910) 889-1786 today.

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