Monday, July 25, 2011

The 6 Steps in Estate Planning

The 6 Steps in Estate Planning

Did you know that every estate plan consists of six steps? It's true and in this article we discuss each of those. As you proceed with your own estate plan, use this as your checklist to make sure that you include all six steps in your plan.

This discussion is NOT about what kind of estate plan you should have, or what your estate plan should say. This is about the six specific steps you want to make sure you complete in order to have the estate plan that is right for you and works for you. Notice that these steps are cumulative and should be taken in the order that I list them here.

We have also published this article as a video if you would like to watch and read along as well. You can find it on our YouTube channel at:

Here are the six steps:

1. Decide to have an estate plan.

That really isn't is silly as it sounds. It's the first step and only you can take it. You have to decide that you want an estate plan before you can take action to get one. It's up to you.

2. Think about your goals.

You want to think about why you are going to do your plan. Is it to protect your kids, property, what are the three or four reasons driving you to do your plan? Write these down and think about them before moving on to step 3.

3. Schedule your estate planning assessment meeting with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

At this meeting you will discuss your goals, the estate and estate tax laws and learn about your options for the different types of plans that might fit your goals and needs. Be prepared to ask questions and for specific recommendations.

You also want the attorney to give you a firm price on fees and expenses so you know ahead of time what your investment will be.

4. Work with your estate planning attorney to design, draft and sign your planning documents.

It may take several meetings to complete each of the tasks in this fourth step. Working with your attorney through these tasks will help make your plan better and ensure that it is yours. Remember, there is no plan until you have signed documents.

5. Coordinate titles to assets and all beneficiary designations with your plan.

This step is critical to the proper working of your plan. It is frustrating and potentially damaging to your family of you skip this step. The goal here is to make sure that your assets and beneficiary designations are synchronized with your plan. Each person is different, so don't just do something because Uncle Fred did.

6. Review your plan, titles and beneficiary designations with your attorney at least every two years.

Since people's lives change, the laws change and your general circumstances change, it is vital to make sure that you keep your plan up to date with changes in your life and the law. The only way you can accomplish this is to do periodic reviews with your estate planning lawyer.

There you have them, six steps to follow to make sure you get the estate plan that fits you and works when you and your family need it.

Let me know if you have questions about any of these steps or this article. We take all questions and comments and welcome your feedback. Thanks for your interest.

Bernie Greenberg