How to Get Started with Estate Planning: 5 Essential Questions to Answer
February 24, 2016
When you are ready to formalize your estate plan, it may not always be clear where you should start or what specific elements you should focus on developing first. While the specifics of your situation – along with your needs and goals – will be the driving force for the estate planning process, you can start identifying your specific needs by answering the following questions:
Who will take care of my minor children when I’m not around to do so? – If you have minor children, answering this question will be an incredibly important part of the estate planning process because it will reveal choices for guardianship that will need to be included in your will. When answering this question, it’s also important to consider whether any of your children has special needs and, if so, what additional plans you may need to put in place now to protect them in the future.
Who can I trust to make decisions for me if I become incapacitated? – The answer to this question is geared towards identifying who you would want to hold your financial and/or medical powers of attorney if you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future (due to an accident, illness, etc.). When choosing your agents (i.e., those who will hold the powers of attorney), it’s important to remember that:
- Different parties can be selected for the financial versus medical powers of attorney.
- Professionals, such as attorneys, can serve as agents.
- Naming co-agents who will share a specific power of attorney is also feasible, depending on your needs and goals.
How do I want my loved ones to inherit certain assets? – In other words, do you want your loved ones to have direct access to certain assets after you pass? Do you prefer that certain beneficiaries have limited access to their inheritance? Or do you want to help your loved ones minimize their future probate costs and obligations? How you answer these questions can reveal the additional estate planning steps you may need to take beyond the will, such as designating “transfer-upon-death” or “payable-on-death” beneficiaries; giving certain assets away now; etc.
Do I need to protect my loved ones from creditors or other stressors? – When debt may be an issue – or when certain beneficiaries may have debt problems, gambling issues, etc., devising trusts (and possibly other estate planning tools) can be incredibly helpful in protecting your loved ones and ensuring that they have access to the assets you intend to leave to them (rather than these assets being seized by creditors, being gambled away, etc.).
Who can I trust to carry out my final wishes after I pass away? – The answer here is geared towards helping you select an executor and/or personal representative to administer your will and estate plan later. While it’s important to pick someone whom you trust implicitly to fulfill this role, don’t forget also that:
- Naming alternates for these roles is essential, as your first choices may not be available later, may not be willing to take on this role when you need them to, etc.
- Reviewing your estate plan – and updating your selections for executor and/or personal representative – as your life circumstances evolve is crucial to ensuring that the right person assumes this role when the time arrives.
When you are ready for experienced help developing, revising or administering an estate plan, it’s time to contact a trusted Santa Clarita estate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman. For more than three decades, our experienced legal professionals have been dedicated to providing people with personalized, highly responsive service, as well as superior representation for their important estate planning and probate needs.
To find out more about your best estate planning options – or to receive experienced help settling an estate, contact our firm by calling (818) 892-7093 or by filling out the contact form on this page.
From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and the greater Los Angeles area.