What is estate planning? Today we’re answering your estate planning questions from the very basic to those that get a little more complicated.
What is Estate Planning? Answering Your Estate Planning Questions
Q: What is estate planning?
A: Let’s begin with the most basic question – what is estate planning?
When we talk about estate planning, we are very simply talking about making a plan for your “estate”. Most people think that the word “estate” refers to a huge mansion or a large parcel of land, but we are actually talking about the physical assets that you own. An estate plan allows you to decide what happens to your assets when you die.
The benefit of an estate plan is that it allows you to dictate what happens to your assets even when you are not present. Having a plan in place also reduces the amount of work that your heirs and beneficiaries will have to do upon your death. For example, if you don’t have a plan in place, those you leave behind are going to have to try to decipher what you would have wanted to happen to your assets – this alone is stressful. Then there is also the possibility that different heirs and beneficiaries are going to argue over your assets because they both have an interest in a certain item. As unbelievable as it is, this type of argument can create huge and longlasting rifts between family members.
Q: Do I Have to Be Wealthy to Need an Estate Plan?
A: No! The answer to this question is actually included in the answer above. Anyone who owns any amount of assets should have an estate plan in place so that their wishes for their belongings upon their death are made clear. It’s also a way for you to ensure that a specific item is bequeathed to a specific person if you have such a wish.
Q: Can I Use an Online Template to Plan My Estate?
A: Many people try to use online forms and templates to create an estate plan because it’s a cheaper process than hiring an attorney. This isn’t necessarily the case, though. Creating your estate plan yourself using forms and templates can lead to mistakes, improper formatting, and can even lead to your estate planning documents being labeled as void.
It’s always best to consult an attorney to plan your estate for various reasons including the following:
- Different states have different requirements in order for estate planning documents to be considered legal and legitimate. If these requirements are not met, it would be as though you died without a will in place and your family is going to have to manage your estate plans in a way that they see fit.
- Mistakes in estate planning documents can also lead to misinterpretation. Working with an attorney will help to clarify all aspects of your estate planning documents so that they are crystal clear.
- Working with an attorney will also ensure that there are witnesses to your estate plan as needed so that documents are properly completed but also so that the existence of your estate plan is verified and notated.
Q: I Don’t Even Know Where to Begin Making Plans For My Assets Upon My Death, Where Should I Start?
A: This is another reason why it’s recommended that you work with an attorney. An estate planning attorney has a set plan in place to help their clients work through the estate planning process. This plan is developed through years or decades of experience so it will give you a great place to start the process. Another benefit of having an attorney is that when those questions do pop up – you have someone knowledgable who you can ask for answers (and those answers are unbiased as opposed to the answers you would receive from family or friends).
Q: Do I Have to Talk to My Children About My Estate Plan?
A: The answer to this question really depends on a few factors. For example, how old are your children? Of course, if your children are still very young, then it is not appropriate to discuss estate planning with them. If, however, your children are adults, it’s a good idea to sit down and talk with them about your estate plan. Talking to your adult children serves a few purposes, firstly, it lets your children know that you have a plan in place so that upon your death, they know to reference that plan. Secondly, talking to your children about your estate plan will make sure that they are not surprised by decisions that you have made. Sometimes children expect the chips to fall a certain way upon their parent’s death and when that doesn’t happen, they are in disbelief, they argue the validity of the estate plan, and they even fight with other family members. Talking through your estate plan ahead of time will help to stop this from happening. It’s also particularly important to talk to adult children about your estate plan when you intend for one of those children to serve as the executor of your estate – this is not a position that you want to thrust upon someone without prior warning.
Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
If you live in or around St. Pete, Florida, and you’re looking for a reputable and experienced estate planning attorney, call us here at Weidner Law at 727-954-8752