Planning for the distribution of your property after you die is neither easy nor exciting. However, it is important for the protection of the people you love and your peace of mind.
If you know that you need to sit down and create an estate plan, you will need to think carefully about your goals and ensure that you don’t violate any laws. Following the four steps below can help you create a thorough and enforceable estate plan.
Step one: Take stock of your property, finances and relationships
To determine how you want to set up your estate plan, you first have to figure out what assets you have to bequeath and who wants to receive them. If you have children, do you want to leave something for your grandchildren as well? Do you want to protect a child’s inheritance from claims by spouses in case they get divorced? All of these considerations will influence the plan you create.
Step two: Think about the needs of the people dependent on you
Estate planning isn’t just about passing out your property. It is also about mitigating the effect of a loss on the people closest to you. Do you have enough life insurance or other assets to allow your spouse to keep staying home with the children? Have you set aside resources to help fund the children’s college? What happens if your spouse dies shortly after you do? Looking at your obligations to others can help you determine what issues you need to address in your last will.
Step three: Approach those you’ll want to take on responsibilities
Before you write out your last will and name someone as executor or decide that your youngest sibling would be the right guardian for your children if both you and your spouse pass away, you need to discuss those decisions with the people they might affect.
Step four: Commit all of the details to writing
Now that you know who you want to receive property, what property you have to distribute, the needs of the people dependent on you, and those willing to step up and assist after your death, you need to translate all of that information into a last will. An incomplete estate plan that does not allocate your property can easily lead to fighting from your family members, so it’s important to be specific in your plans.
You may also want to include a letter with your last will going into more detail about certain decisions. If people try to challenge your wishes, a secondary document explaining the logistics behind disinheriting one child or not letting your spouse step into an ownership role at your company can help convince a probate judge to uphold your wishes.
Getting help using the right documents and language for your last will, as well as ensuring proper notarization and filing of the document, will turn your last will into a legal document that protects you and the people you love.