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estate planning best practices

Estate planning do’s and don’ts

Estate planning is a wise step for anyone hoping to enjoy their retirement and find peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that their final wishes will be honored. There are many downfalls to not planning your estate, including not being prepared in the case of an emergency. If you fail to create a last will and testament, many of your valued possessions may be withheld from your intended beneficiaries. This article will cover best practices and things to avoid when planning your estate, so that you can start on the right path toward a peaceful retirement.

Estate Planning Best Practices

While there’s no “right way” to plan your estate, there are best practices that may help you expedite the process and ensure that everything gets passed on according to your wishes. Rocket Lawyer’s comprehensive guide to estate planning will help you navigate the process from start to finish.

  • Begin your research online.
    If you’re new to estate planning, you may want to start out by researching online. This can help educate you on the process so that you’re not completely blindsided when it comes time to sit down and talk with your lawyer.
  • Meet with a lawyer or other estate planning expert.
    No matter how confident you are about the estate planning process, it’s wise to go over everything with a lawyer, financial or tax expert to be sure. Schedule a meeting sooner rather than later, because you want to have time to make these important decisions when you’re not stuck in crisis-mode.
  • Complete your estate planning online.
    Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to get educated about the process and plan your estate online. You can get access to essential pieces of the estate planning puzzle such as living wills, last will and testaments, living trusts, and power of attorney documents. You can also get connected with customer service agents to assist in the process if you get stuck and aren’t sure how to move forward.

Things to Avoid When Estate Planning

Avoid common misconceptions or mistakes regularly made during the estate planning process with these easy tips:

  • Don’t put off estate planning for too long.
    One of the biggest mistakes you can make when estate planning is putting it off for too long. You never know what changes life will throw your way, and planning early will ensure that your intended beneficiaries are covered if anything should happen. Those who start earlier will also find the process to be much easier, with more time to think through options and get advice from estate planning experts.
  • Update your will.
    Wills and living trusts can both be used to transfer assets, which is a major reason experts advise clients to update them regularly. It’s wise to revisit your will every five years to assure that your current wishes are reflected in legal documentation. Schedule a meeting with your lawyer and plan a timeline so that your estate plan is prepared in the case of an emergency.
  • Plan for disability.
    If you’re young and healthy when planning your estate, chances are you aren’t preparing for disability down the road. You think, “that won’t happen to me,” but the truth is you never know. With longevity gradually increasing due to advances in medicine, the odds of disability are also increasing. That’s why experts recommend that you plan for disability just in case.

Those who decide to take this advice should consider including the following estate planning documents in their estate plan: Revocable Living Trusts, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Wills, and HIPPA Authorizations. Other steps for pre-planning may include looking into disability income insurance, long-term care insurance, and life insurance.

  • Put a lot of thought into who will handle your estate.
    One of the most common assumptions people makes when estate planning is assuming that their spouse or children will be the best person to handle their estate. This is not always the case, and you should consider all options before naming someone as the executor who will ensure your last wishes are respected. Your executor can be a relative, friend, or spouse, but keep in mind that if your estate doesn’t have enough assets to pay off the debts you’ve incurred, your spouse may end up owing the balance. Whatever your decision, you want to ensure that the person you choose is someone you trust.
  • Don’t forget about your pets!
    By law, pets are considered part of your personal property, and as such they should be included in your estate plan. In order to keep them protected after you are gone, you should identify who will be their caretaker, and you can even set up a trust to ensure that the next owner has the means to cover medical care and other pet-related costs.

If you keep these tips in mind when planning your estate, and follow along with Rocket Lawyer’s helpful guide, you’ll be on the right path toward a peaceful retirement. Once your estate plan is completed, you can rest assured that your wishes will be honored and your beneficiaries receive the assets you intended them to receive.

Get started on your estate plan with a simple will from Rocket Lawyer.

For more tips on the estate planning process, visit Rocket Lawyer.

Seniorly

Seniorly

Jacqueline Hatch is the Content Manager at Seniorly.com, a company that provides free resources for families in need of senior care services. Her goal is to produce educational articles that help families navigate the complicated world of aging options. She does this through managing the Seniorly Resource Center, where families can search for relevant articles based on topics and keywords.
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