The process of creating an estate plan will feel less overwhelming if you keep in mind a few simple tips.Dos and Don'ts of Creating an Estate Plan

Do Talk to Your Loved Ones About Your Plans

When it comes to estate planning, assumptions can be dangerous. It’s always smart to talk to your loved ones about your plan—especially individuals whom you want to have financial and medical power of attorney. If someone is unable or unwilling to serve, the court may need to step in to appoint an alternate person. This creates unnecessary stress in times of crisis.

Additionally, if you’re planning on doing anything out of the ordinary with your estate—such as leaving your children unequal shares of your assets—make sure everyone understands the reason for your decision. Otherwise, there’s a strong possibility that hurt feelings will make it difficult for your loved ones to maintain relationships with each other after your passing.

Do Think About Avoiding Probate

Probate is the legal process used to distribute a person’s assets after their death. Even if a person has a will, any assets that do not pass directly to beneficiaries must go through probate first. This process can be time-consuming and costly. It’s also public, which can be problematic for individuals who value their privacy.

There are several strategies that can be used to avoid probate, such as creating a living trust or holding property under the joint tenancy with a right of survivorship designation. However, some of these approaches have tax implications that must be considered carefully.

Don’t Go the DIY Route

Even if you have minimal assets, it’s not a good idea to opt for a DIY estate plan. These plans use cookie-cutter language that is often not applicable to your personal situation or the laws of North Carolina.

Remember that an estate plan is also about more than just money. For example, you need to choose people who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated and select a guardian for any minor children still living at home.

Don’t Assume Your Work Is Finished

An estate plan is best thought of as a work in progress. Your plan needs to change as your circumstances change. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or a sudden promotion at work are just a few of the reasons why your estate plan might need to be updated. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to review your documents with an attorney every three to five years to make sure everything is in order.

Wilmington Trusted Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys Work With You to Create a Custom Estate Plan to Meet Your Unique Needs

 Our team is ready to answer your questions about your current will or estate plan or to help you get started on a smart estate plan that is customized for your unique situation. We provide free 15-minute consultations to discuss your goals. Fill out our contact form or give us a call at (910) 452-3577. From our office in Wilmington, we help families across the state of North Carolina, and we are ready to work for you!

John J. Peck
Wilmington Elder Law, Estate Planning & Asset Protection Attorney
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