Many people consider creating an estate plan a major undertaking. While it certainly can take time and effort, you and many others can start small and work your way up to creating a comprehensive plan. Even having just a few important documents in place is better than having no plan at all, which is a major mistake many people in California and across the country make.
The beginning of the planning process does not have to involve a major to-do either. If you do not yet want to bring others into your decision to start your plan, you can begin by quietly inventorying your asset. However, estate plans are typically most effective when family members know what they include ahead of time.
Cover the basics
Your asset inventory can be an important jumping-off point for your overall plan. By knowing what you have, you may be better able to determine who you want to receive which assets after your passing. Consider your tangible assets, like your home, vehicles and personal possessions, as well as your intangible assets, like your funds in bank accounts, investments and insurance policies. You may also want to make note of what certain assets are worth at the time of your inventory, but remember that values can change over time.
In addition to considering what you want to happen after your passing, you may also want to consider your family’s needs. Do you have minor children who would need a guardian? Do you have enough life insurance coverage to help your family cover necessary expenses? These and other considerations can help you leave vital instructions and take important steps before they are necessary.
Consider important documents
Once you are ready to start creating formal documents in which to leave your instructions, you may want to consider the following planning tools:
- A will
- Medical care directive
- Health care power of attorney
- Financial power of attorney
These tools can help you detail your wishes for asset distribution, your medical care should you become incapacitated and ways you want to protect certain assets. Of course, once you feel ready to go beyond the basics, you may want to look into other planning options, such as those for charitable giving or long-term care planning.
Have the right help
It is also important to remember that, while you may want to do certain planning steps on your own, help is available for creating the best estate plan for your circumstances. An experienced attorney can assist you in creating the legally binding documents you need to ensure the following of your wishes.