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Explore General Legal Issues

3 Estate Planning Tips You Need To Know

by Ralph Griffin

If you have any personal belongings, property, or wealth, and you are an adult, you should have a will or an estate plan in place. Creating an estate plan is an important responsibility that many people skip out on. Skipping out on this responsibility ultimately just results in more work for those you love who survive you, which is why you need to start on your estate plan now.

Tip #1: Always Leave Written Directions for Dealing with Your Home

When it comes to planning for your death, one of the most important things you can do is make plans for what happens to your home in the event of your death.

When you do not make any plans for what happens to your home when you die, and your name is the only name on the deed, legally, your heirs can't even clean up the home until an executor has been appointed by the courts for your will. This can really prolong the grieving process for your loved ones and put them in a very complicated situation while the courts determine what happens with your home.

Ensure you have a plan for your home. Your plan could be as simple as adding a joint right of survivorship or a transfer on death clause to the deed to your home, or your plan could be laid out in more detail in a will or a living trust.

Tip #2: A Living Trust Will Keep Your Estate Plan Private

Even if you create a will, you will have to go through the probate process, which is different in each state. During the probate process, the state will determine if your will is valid. The tricky thing about the probate process is that it makes everything that is included in the will becomes public knowledge, so anyone can look up and find out who you left your assets to and even what kind of debt you had when you died.

You can minimize the cost and process of probate court by having a detailed estate plan. You can help your family stay out of probate court, and the public disclosure that comes with it, by creating a revocable living trust instead.

Tip #3: Plan for the Unexpected

When creating an estate plan, you probably have an idea in your mind of the order in which your family may die. For example, as a parent, you may assume that you will outlive your children, and thus plan on your children being the trustee for your estate. However, life is often unpredictable, which is why you should include substitute plans in writing within your estate planning documents.

For example, you should include who you want to be a trustee if the first person you appoint dies before you or at the same time you do. You may want to create a list with a few backup trustees.

Having an estate plan is a responsibility that all adults should undergo. Work with an estate planning attorney to create a detailed estate plan that will account for the unexpected and keep your transactions private when you die.