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What is the First Step in Estate Planning?

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By Anaya Taylor
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An estate plan is an organized plan that is designed to protect your assets and ensure that your family is taken care of after you pass. It also reduces the amount of taxes owed on your death. These plans are usually completed with the help of a professional team, such as an attorney, accountant, bank trust officer, and insurance agent.

The first step in an estate plan is to identify your financial status and assets. You should make an inventory of your possessions, including valuable items such as jewelry and a home. Additionally, you should create a will, which is a document that specifies how you wish to distribute your assets upon your death.

Once you’ve created your estate plan, you should review it periodically. Your plan may need to be adjusted for changes in your personal and financial circumstances, as well as changes in the law. For instance, your plan may need to be modified after the birth of a child, a marriage, or the death of a spouse.

Another important part of an estate plan is the beneficiaries. Having an accurate list of these individuals can prevent a will contest, which could result in your assets being distributed inconsistently. In addition, you should name a guardian for any minor children. This will allow you to avoid the probate process and ensure that your assets are properly distributed to your heirs.

As you work on your estate plan, you may find that you need to adjust the terms of your will. During this time, you may want to change the names of some of your assets, or you may need to retitle some of your property. If you do this, it’s a good idea to get a copy of a recent appraisal or title search to determine the value of your property.

Another vital component of an estate plan is the power of attorney. A power of attorney allows a designated person to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.

Estate planning is a complex and complicated process, and it can be helpful to have a team of professionals who can assist you with it. They can also give you advice and analyze your current financial situation. There are many types of documents and programs that can be used in estate planning, such as a living will, a financial directive, or a trust.

Before you start planning your estate, it’s a good idea to choose a lawyer who has a lot of experience in this field. Ask your friends and associates for referrals, or contact your local bar association. Remember that the attorney you choose should be trustworthy, empathetic, and responsible.

Finally, be sure to keep your documents up to date. This includes renaming assets, changing the title of your accounts, and updating the payable on death forms on your investments and retirement funds. When you’re ready to complete your plan, you’ll need to review your documents to ensure that they are in compliance with legal requirements.

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