You and your partner have been together for a few decades, have raised children and have accumulated a healthy chunk of change. So far, you have gone through life without an estate plan, assuming that you wouldn't need one. But now that you are getting on in years, you and your spouse have been talking about making one.
Estate plans are crucial documents--not for you and your spouse, but for your children and the rest of your family. You have already taken the first step: Deciding to create an estate plan. So, what comes next?
The function of estate plans
Estate plans can have many functions. Most people use them to ensure that their assets and belongings are passed to their children, spouses or other family members. Your estate plan can also be used to establish your end-of-life care, reduce taxes and donate to charity. Generally, estates include financial accounts, real estate, stocks and expensive property. But they can also include seemingly insignificant details, like which family member inherits your great-aunt's teacup collection.
Starting your estate plan
When you are prepared to plan your estate, you may need to contact an attorney and a financial advisor. Estate planning can be complicated, and there are many delicate legal matters to handle. You and your spouse will go over everything that will be included in your estate. Then, you will have to consider what you want to happen to it after you die. There are several important questions that you should ask yourselves, including:
- Which family members will receive which assets?
- Will you contribute to charity?
- Should the house stay in the family, or be sold?
- Which family member or friend will be the executor of your will?
The estate-planning process can take anywhere from a few hours to several months. Although the process may seem complex, do not let it put you off from planning your estate. Once you have everything settled, your estate plan will provide peace of mind and protect your assets for future generations.