Although the goals and design of estate plans vary from person to person, there are a few cornerstones of estate planning. Here are three things to keep in mind to make the process as easy as possible.
Estate planning is a confidential process.
Estate planning takes into account your needs, goals, objectives, beliefs, and values. In order to shape the plan to best fit all of these considerations, estate planning involves some questions that are not necessarily a part of everyday conversation. It touches on some sensitive subjects, such as your family, relationships, assets, liabilities, and personal values. But the answers only are used to formulate the best plan possible.
We can only plan for what we know about.
Estate planning can be forward-looking in its approach, but will focus on the goals, people, and assets that you identify. It usually is best to address all of the considerations together in one plan if possible. Planning for only some of the assets, or omitting real estate located out of town, may cause one or more undesirable outcomes. These may include having to open an ancillary probate case, needlessly giving up certain tax strategies, or other costly results. Therefore, it is best to aim for one plan that addresses everything together.
Focus on the future.
When doing estate planning, do not worry about the shape of your family tree. Everyone has one. It undoubtedly is made up of many people, each with many stories accumulated over hopefully many years. Some of these people and their stories will be a source of pride. Others may be less so.
With that as a starting point, estate planning involves looking forward, choosing what you want for your family – in terms of stability and security, and knowledge and values, as well as personal and financial health – and then deciding what parts of the past and the family tree are useful in constructing the plan. The planning process will help you take stock of what to account for and build upon, without getting mired in the past. At its best, estate planning can strengthen and improve the prospects for a brighter future.