For most people, writing a will can seem like a daunting task. With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, such as Gary I. Handin, you can plan to leave your loved ones with a fair and equal split of your belongings. To prevent family feuds, here are a few guidelines to follow when preparing your estate will:
Know All Your Assets and Liabilities
Before planning your estate, it’s a good idea to understand the value of your assets, liabilities and other belongings. Firstly, note down all your assets – this includes real estate, business interests and intellectual property. Secondly, make a list of all your bank accounts, which would include any saving or investment accounts too. Your retirement annuity, life insurance any liabilities, such as loans or credit cards will be claimed against your estate – ensure these are also listed and try to keep it to a minimum. To ensure nothing is missed, have an estate planning checklist.
Choose The Right Personal Representative or Trustee
Choosing the right executor or Personal Representative for your estate is crucial. This person becomes responsible for managing every detail of your estate upon your passing. The responsibility includes filling legal documents, tax filings and being the point of contact for your creditors and loved ones. The role also requires a great deal of time commitment. If probate is required, depending upon the complexity of your estate, it could take up to two years to execute your estate plan. When selecting an executor, ensure that it’s someone who you can trust who has some financial or law understanding and experience. Family members are often the most popular choice when searching for a trustee but this could lead to animosity within the family. Consider selecting a professional fiduciary or consulting your bank to be the executor of your estate.
Divide Your Personal Belongings
Items of personal and sentimental value can also be included in your estate. You can also talk to your loved ones to understand which item they would prefer to receive. This allows you to share your belongings equally and gift your family something that has value to them.
Don’t Use Complicated Conditions in Your Will
Some wills contain conditions which have to be met by the beneficiary before he or she can receive the inheritance. One of the most common conditions is reaching a required age. If no Trust is created in the will, any minors will receive their inheritance at age 18. Considering a trust can extend this age restriction as may be required. This makes sense for much younger family members but can be frustrating if the age restriction is too stringent. It’s also unnecessary to split your inheritance pay out over a period of several years. Keep the conditions simple to make the process easier for your loved ones.
Avoid Conflict Between Beneficiaries Of Your Estate
Conflict often arises between family members during the allocation of your assets. You can try to prevent this by managing expectations upfront. Family members often assume that estates will be equally divided and are sometimes surprised once the will is read. Engage with your beneficiaries on how you intend to split your estate to avoid blindsiding them. If it is not all equal, it’s comforting to provide a reason by writing a letter or having a meeting with them. As far as possible, avoid joint ownership of any assets, which joint ownership will override any provisions contained in your will or Trust.
Consult an Estate Attorney
Estate planning attorneys have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide valuable advice for planning of your estate. They will also be able to guide you on the legal requirements which need to be taken into account and assist in ensuring your estate plan is well crafted and legally binding.
Estate planning does not have to be a complicated process, by following the above guidelines and contacting an experienced estate planning attorney, like Gary I. Handin, you will have complete peace of mind.