One of the recurring themes we talk about in our blog is the idea that every estate plan needs to be unique. Everyone who comes to us to create a plan has their own needs, desires, and long-term goals. Crafting a plan that helps you meet all of those individual elements is what we help our clients do.
Nevertheless, there are some essential estate planning rules that everyone can use that can help them as they go about the process of creating a plan. If you are just getting started on the planning process, or feeling overwhelmed by all the issues you think about, you might want to review these rules to help keep you on track.
Estate Planning Rule. Act quickly.
Having an estate plan is always better than not having one. The questions and issues you address through your plan are often of a very personal nature. Though they may be difficult to think about, it’s always better that you take the time to craft a plan so that you don’t leave the important questions unanswered.
If you don’t get around to creating a plan, the questions your plan would have addressed will still need to be answered, but not by you. Instead, your close family members, a judge, or the laws of the state of North Carolina will determine the answers to these very personal questions.
Estate Planning Rule. Have a good idea about what you currently have.
An estate plan is like a roadmap. It tells you what you have to go in order to get where you want to be. And just like any roadmap, you have to know your starting point if you expect to be able to follow it. Before you make any definitive choices about estate planning, always take a survey of what you currently have. This not only includes your property, but also includes questions about your health, your debts, and your family relationships.
Estate Planning Rule. Identify reliable people in your life.
Many elements of your estate plan will require you to choose representatives who will either make decisions on your behalf, or represent your estate after you die. Regardless of who you choose, you want to make sure that the person is capable of handling the responsibility of making those kinds of important choice. Many people, when choosing representatives, naturally turn towards their closest family members and loved ones. While this is a perfectly acceptable way to choose representatives, don’t eliminate someone because they are not closely related to you. In the end, it’s more important you choose someone who is reliable and trustworthy than it is to choose someone based on familial ties.
Estate Planning Rule. Ask for help.
Estate planning is complicated, and no one can do it without assistance. Always ask your lawyer if you have a question about the law or about your options. Beyond that, feel free to talk to your spouse, siblings, loved ones, clergy, or anyone else you think might be able to help you as you make difficult estate planning choices.