Generally speaking, the definition of estate planning is the distribution of assets after your death to people, organizations or causes with a minimum of fuss and legal ramifications. No, this is not just for the wealthy; it is for anyone with an estate, no matter how big or small. However, having said that, it's a good idea not to wait until you are older to do this.
The best time to plan out your estate distribution is when you are alive and healthy and mentally competent to do so. Waiting until you are older does not always guarantee that your mental capacity is as sharp as it once was. The other reason not to wait until later is that if an estate plan is made and the mental capabilities of the person are in question, this virtually guarantees a challenge. Not a good thing for the beneficiaries.
Think ahead when doing estate planning, plan when you are well and "with it" and cognizant of the ramifications of your decisions. Estate planning needs to take into account just about any "glitch" that may foreseeably arise, which is why this kind of asset distribution needs to be done with the assistance of a thoroughly competent estate planning attorney.
Don't know where to start with estate planning? Here are a few simple ideas, but again, it is best to discuss the whole process with a skilled attorney. Make a list of all your possessions, or at least the ones you wish to gift to others, which may include your house, land, cars, boats, cash, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, art, furniture and/or interests etc. in a business. Just remember, that debts and other obligations are also a major part of your estate as well.
While you are making a list, outline who your beneficiaries are and flesh out that information with names, addresses, ages etc. Name an executor or executrix and draft a list for them of any other agreements you may have: e.g. pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, other wills, property deeds etc. When in doubt, consult with your estate-planning attorney. Remember, this is an ongoing process and needs to be updated every time your life circumstances change.
Patrick Warwick is the lead content contributor for Chicago bankruptcy firm, The Law Office of Jay F. Fortier, P.C.. To speak with a Chicago bankruptcy lawyer or learn more about creditor rights, visit Westsidebankruptcy.com
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