Many people I come into contact with, upon learning that I have an Estate Planning practice, immediately respond: “I’ll call you when I actually have an estate to plan” or “One day when I have money I’ll need your services” – this is a huge misconception in Estate Planning. And, for that reason, here are 5 steps every person needs to take.
(1) Recognize that you have an estate. Sure, it may only be a house, or a car, or a baseball card collection. But, don’t you want to have a say where your property will go upon your death? Too many people put planning off until they “need” it. Unfortunately, life takes twists and turns, and you never will truly know when you will need to have your planning done. At a minimum, start with basic planning so you don’t leave your property in the hands of the state to make decisions for you.
(2) Recognize that you’re not immortal. Things happen. Life changes. Sometimes those changes are unexpected and rapid. Consider, as an essential part of your planning, to secure a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a healthcare surrogate. These three documents can assist you with putting a person you trust in charge of your affairs, someone who knows your directives and has your best interests in mind.
(3) Recognize that you should organize. Organize what? Organize your affairs. If you were to pass away tomorrow, does your family know how to find every bank account, are they aware of every insurance policy, are they able to access safe deposit boxes? The idea is to organize for your family – create a journal, make an excel spreadsheet, write it on a sticky note…whatever works for you. Just don’t leave your family guessing.
(4) Recognize that you aren’t as up to date as you should be. I’m not talking about knowing the latest songs on the radio or reality television show. Have you updated your beneficiaries? On all accounts, policies, etc.? Have you updated your estate plan since having another child, remarrying, losing a loved one? Did you remember to include that new car or boat in your planning? Do you have beneficiaries designated for bank accounts? It is essential to update, and to meet with your attorney to discuss the impact of these updates on your estate.
(5) Recognize that you need to sit down with an attorney. There is a saying – “Don’t mistake your google search for my law degree.” This adage is essential for estate planning. Many people want to utilize a preprinted form they pay $15 for on some website. Guess what? That form may be suitable for Minnesota, but not Florida. That form might be missing language that could otherwise leave you with no legally enforceable document. That form was created by someone (or something) that has never met you, and doesn’t care what happens to you after you download it. Rely on expertise, and sit down with an attorney that can discuss your situation and find solutions.
These 5 basic steps will help you to get your estate in order. At Shulman Law, we can help you with these 5 steps and much more. Click on the “Contact” link to set up a consultation. At Shulman Law, we believe you should lead your legacy, not just leave it.
Shulman Law offers legal representation in Estate Planning, Succession Planning, Charitable Giving, as well as Criminal Defense Attorney services in Fort Lauderdale, Coral Ridge, Oakland Park, Wilton Manor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hollywood and throughout Broward County Florida.