Many people seem to avoid estate planning either because we do not want to think about death (particularly our own) or we do not want to think about all the paperwork, emotion, and flat-out hassle involved. It’s kind of like digging out and organizing all your tax information for the year to bring to your CPA…but worse. Your CPA only wants that year’s tax significant info–not an itemized list that reflects your lifetime accumulation of valuables, bank account numbers, investments, retirement plans, insurance policies, property, and so on.
And if that wasn’t enough, you then must decide who is worthy of receiving these precious items that seemingly reflect your indention upon this planet. After agonizing whether or not leaving a drug-addict daughter a portion of the estate would be more detrimental than gratuitous, we throw in the towel and rationalize that we will worry about it later.
Unfortunately, none of us can cheat death. We can pretend that it doesn’t exist, but it will be at the expense of our loved ones. Leaving your loved ones to duke it out is never a good option–absent a twisted sense of humor.
Although daunting, the hassle, headache, and huge legal fees associated with estate planning can be avoided by following a few simple words of advice.
- Make a list of your assets, dividing them up by category (real property, liquid accounts, family heirlooms, etc.)
- Make a list of the people you would like to leave something from your estate
- If there are specific things you want to give a particular person, put that item next to the person’s name
- Think about how you envision spending your retirement days–do you want to live it up traveling the world or find a modest, comfortable retirement community
Once you have sketched out your big picture objectives, it becomes much easier to ensure that you are getting an estate plan that can carry out your wishes while eliminating unnecessary estate planning documents.
Last, shop around. When talking to an estate planning attorney, be specific about what you need. Get a price quote and for good measure, get another opinion.