For many people, the term estate planning refers to a somewhat vague concept that deals with individuals who have great wealth. In reality, though, estate planning benefits nearly all families and refers to the precise legal administration of a person’s assets in life and in death.
A solid estate plan, among other things, minimizes costs such as taxes and makes sure the right beneficiaries receive the intended inheritance.
A helpful checklist
Nerdwallet identifies inventorying a person’s tangible and intangible assets as one of the first steps for effective estate planning. This means looking at such things as real estate holdings, bank accounts, vehicles, cash, investments, collectibles and the like. A professional evaluation of certain documents can lead to a more equitable distribution of a person’s wealth.
A second important element concerns making sure family members have enough resources to meet basic needs in all situations. This could include strategies such as life insurance and making sure children have a guardian in the case of early death. Several other principles inform estate planning:
- Establish clear directives
- Keep current with beneficiary designations
- Navigate state estate laws
- Work with professionals as needed
A planned reassessment
All individuals should look over an established plan every two or three years. Life changes can require a change in certain paperwork or could reflect a change in philosophy that impacts specific directives or details of a will. Big events such as a marriage or a divorce, the birth of a child or the movement to a new state all call for a new look at estate documents. Laws can also change, allowing for new opportunities to improve an estate plan.