Continuing on from last week's post, this time let's look at what the process of estate planning involves. With a little transparency around what to expect, you might be more inclined to make it happen ; )
Things certainly will vary depending on the attorney you choose to help you through your estate plans, but these are the general steps as they look from a high level.
Before you even get involved with an attorney, take some time to think about what issues you have to address. Do you have minor children to plan for? Do your children present any special circumstances that require custom plans (children from previous marriages, children with special needs, etc.)? Do you have a prenuptial agreement with your spouse or separate assets (such as from inheritance)? Do you have a closely-held business of significant value?
- Finding an Attorney
The issues that you identified above may play an important role in deciding on the right attorney to draft your estate plans. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to look for an attorney with a certain expertise. Not all are qualified, for example, to advise you on issues related to your family's business and how to transfer ownership to your children. Additionally, feel free to consider whether you prefer a large firm or not.
- Reviewing Drafts
After you go through the attorney's discovery process and draft documents are now in hand, I strongly encourage you to patiently and methodically review them page by page. This is your chance to review for accuracy, but even more than that I think this is your opportunity to learn more about what you've done. It will serve you well to understand your documents in detail because you'll be far better situated to implement the plan properly.
- Implementing Your Plan
If you've made it this far, AVOID the temptation to get complacent. All too often, people get the impression that things are in much better shape just by having taken the time to talk with an attorney and review draft documents. That's definitely not the case. You need to stick it out for just a little while longer while you execute final versions of your documents, start updating beneficiaries and titling of your assets, distribute copies of your plans to successor trustees or future attorneys in fact, and fund any trusts that you may have created.
Feeling good about estate planning yet? You can do it.