As Californians age, the idea of preparing an estate plan becomes more important. But what is an estate plan? And what goes into an estate plan? While preparing a complete estate plan can require the services of an expert attorney, organizing the basic information for an estate plan is a task that anyone can undertake and successfully complete.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a list of directions to a trustee or executor of a will about the assets owned by the person making the plan when the owner of the assets dies. The exact nature of the directions depends upon the nature and value of the assets, but several guidelines apply to all estate plans.
- Make an inventory of assets, both tangible and intangible; also, make a note about the location and estimated value of these assets.
- Evaluate your family’s needs. If the assets are insufficient to meet these needs, life insurance may fill the gap. Also, consider your children’s needs and who may be a suitable guardian if the other parent is not around to fulfill that role.
- Establish minimum directives, such as medical care and whether a power of attorney may be necessary to complete your directives.
- Make certain that all persons to whom you wish to provide a bequest are listed.
- For very large estates, federal taxes may be an issue; currently, only estates larger than $11.7 million are subject to federal taxes.
- Consider hiring professional help. Preparing a complex estate plan may necessitate retaining an experienced estate planning attorney or, better yet, a person who combines the skills and knowledge of an estate planning lawyer and a CPA.
Help to create an estate plan
Making an estate plan requires the making of many decisions about how to distribute assets after the owner dies. Even a knowledgeable estate planning attorney cannot make those decisions for the testator (the person making the plan), but a little forethought and planning can make the task much easier.