Estate planning is not a straightforward process, but it can allow any individual of legal age and sound mind and body to safeguard their best interests and that of their loved ones. Understanding the basic steps involved in estate planning is crucial.
Gather and appraise your assets
Before you begin estate planning, you want to determine the extent of your estate and what assets will be a part of it. Remember, you need not be wealthy to have an estate plan. What may seem of inconsequential value to you could mean the world to your loved one when they lose you.
Identify your goals
One of the most important steps is understanding why you want to create an estate plan in the first place. Here are the objectives you should consider:
- Ensure a smooth transfer of property to your loved ones
- Protect your loved ones from probate
- Preserve your wealth
- Minimize tax returns
- Protect yourself by planning for incapacity
- Safeguard your dependents’ needs
- Prevent potential disputes among family members and interested parties
An effective estate plan can allow you to address all your goals. You simply must learn which estate planning instruments to incorporate and how to maximize each.
Designate your beneficiaries
Your surviving loved ones will only directly inherit your assets if you designate them as your beneficiaries. If you do not appoint beneficiaries, California’s intestate succession laws will govern the distribution of your estate.
Choose your estate administrator or personal representatives
Whether you have a trust, a will or both, you should nominate a personal representative that you trust has the competence and skill to administer your estate in good faith. The person you select will have a fiduciary duty to you and your estate. Therefore, they will have access to your entire estate and oversee the administration of your estate before distributing it to the interested parties.
Your estate plan should allow you to dictate your last wishes and ensure your personal representative will carry them out accordingly.