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Understanding the Basics of Estate Planning

Does hearing the phrase “estate planning” cause your eyes to glaze over or make you want to hum a tune to block out the incoming conversation? Admittedly, estate planning can be an intimidating topic, especially if you have no understanding of what it entails. But at its core, estate planning is about ensuring that you get a say in when and how your assets and personal possessions are passed to your loved ones. It is time to take control of your future and face estate planning head on.

Estate planning can be as straightforward as naming which child gets which set of china or jewelry, but it can also be more complex. Especially complicated estate plans can include strategies to reduce current or future taxes, ensuring your heirs receive as much as possible after Uncle Sam takes his cut. Regardless of your goals or the complexity of your estate, there are a few key steps everyone should understand in estate planning.

First, you need to take an inventory of your assets. You cannot create an estate plan without knowing what you have to pass on, and your estate plan will be incomplete if you leave something out. Start with the big ticket items like real estate holdings, investments, life insurance policies, and other items that have a larger value. Then, take stock of items that have more personal value. While items like jewelry, a stamp collection, a signed book, or even furniture may have less cash value, they often have more personal meaning to a person or two in your life, so it is important to be considerate in selecting who gets what.

Second, consider how you will care for any family you have upon your passing. Verify that your life insurance policy is up to date and will be enough for your spouse or children. If you do have children, determine who you want to serve as guardian and then have a discussion with this person before putting their name into a legal document. Review or establish your beneficiaries for financial accounts, such as retirement plans.

Third, reach out to an estate planning lawyer to create your estate plan. They can help you establish a trust, write a will and create medical or financial directives. They will guide you through a range of scenarios to determine any other choices you need to make in order to safeguard your assets.

Finally, make a plan to reassess your estate plan every so often, be it every year, every 5 years or after a major life change such as getting married or having children. Circumstances change, be it beneficiaries who enter or leave your life, financial assets that change or simply a change of heart.

If you would like assistance in establishing a new estate plan or reviewing an existing plan, the lawyers at Brown Law Firm, LLC are here to help. With years of estate planning experience, they will take the time to get to know you and your unique situation, so they can understand your needs and desires. Call (303) 339-3750 to schedule an appointment.