While it may be an uncomfortable concept to think about, everyone should put some thought into what they want done with their assets and property after they pass away. Unfortunately, even if you do decide to make a formalized plan for your estate, it can be difficult to know the necessary steps to form a legally enforceable instrument, especially if you have never dealt with trusts and estates law before.
The assistance of a seasoned estate planning lawyer could significantly simplify the Manalapan Township estate planning process and increase your odds of building a plan that comprehensively serves your best interests.
First Steps in the Estate Planning Process
The first important decision for a testator to make in the estate planning process is determining who will have the authority to make decisions on their behalf if necessary. This usually entails designating a health care representative who can tell doctors what end-of-life care a testator should receive if they become incapacitated before their death.
It is also important to designate someone who will make financial decisions on a testator’s behalf in the event of their incapacitation. These two orders are respectively called durable powers of attorney for health care and durable financial powers of attorney, and both are usually critical parts of any comprehensive estate plan.
Naming Assets and Beneficiaries
After establishing parties who will act upon a testator’s wishes if they cannot do so themselves, the next step in the estate planning process is identifying all assets and liabilities that are part of the testator’s estate. This list should include all property, bank accounts, investments, debts, and anything else in the testator’s name. Every item on that list should be valuated as accurately as possible.
The next step is deciding who will receive a testator’s property after their death, and in what amount. Beneficiaries can be named in a Last Will and Testament or through separate beneficiary designations for assets that will not go through probate. Often, this happens through a combination of these two processes.
Drafting Important Documents
Once a testator has documented all their assets and determined who will be responsible for them and who will ultimately inherit them, their wishes are put down in writing. The most essential document in any estate plan is a Last Will and Testament, which should contain instructions for the estate executor and directives about beneficiaries and probate assets.
However, with the exception of uncommonly simple estates, a will is not enough to make a comprehensive estate plan on its own. The estate planning process often also mandates additional documentation in the form of revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and other instruments meant to cover unique situations and circumstances. Local legal counsel could discuss with an individual testator what steps and instruments they should prioritize in their estate planning process.
A Manalapan Township Attorney Could Simplify the Estate Planning Process
While an estate plan should be stored safely once it is fully drafted, it should not remain unexamined until the testator passes away. It can be crucial for estate plans to be updated on a regular basis in response to changing circumstances of the testator’s life, especially after significant events like a divorce or the premature death of a beneficiary.
In this way, the Manalapan Township estate planning process is essentially a lifelong endeavor if done thoroughly and properly. A qualified lawyer could help you every step of the way, working tirelessly to ensure an outcome that meets your and your family’s needs. Call today to get started.