For most of us, estate planning has become one of those things you know you need to do, but will do later. For some, estate planning is only for the wealthy and seems to be a waste of time for those with smaller estates. For others, estate planning sounds like a good idea, but you do not know if it is right for you.
Estate planning is one of the most responsible things you can do to provide for you and your loved ones. It sets order to your estate, and clearly outlines your wishes so that you can rest in peace. There is no one size fits all solution in estate planning. Rather, your estate plan is tailored to fit your individual circumstances, family dynamics, assets and financial position.
As an estate planner, I have identified 5 Keys to Successful Estate Planning that I would like to share with you in the hopes that your estate planning experience will be as amazing as you are!
- MAKE A DECISION. Estate planning is a choice. You can choose to create your estate plan, or if you pass away intestate, or without an estate plan, the local laws in your state will do it for you. In Illinois, the Probate Act (755 ILCS 5/1, et seq.) controls how an intestate estate will be handled, but it does not provide for specific gifts, charitable giving, disability, or tax planning. Remember: inaction still constitutes a decision.
- SEEK GUIDANCE. Work with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you avoid mistakes and identify the most efficient means to effectuate your personal goals and wishes. Remember: LESS IS NOT MORE. A simple will may be insufficient to address your goals or needs. Be open to a comprehensive estate plan that considers minor children, charitable giving, disability, death, and tax planning.
- INVENTORY PROPERTY AND ASSETS. Make copies of deeds, gather account statements, insurance policies, conduct a global assessment of intellectual property including trademarks and copyrights, inventory art collections, and all other assets to be provided for in your estate plan. Remember: the more information your attorney has about you, the better she can guide and advise you during the estate planning process.
- COLLABORATION IS KEY. Collaboration amongst attorneys, CPAs, appraisers, insurance professionals, business managers, etc. is critical to insuring all assets are included and protected in your estate plan.
- DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Seek professional guidance BEFORE sickness, disability, or imminent death. Estate planning is a process that takes time. It is most effective when you are not battling a health challenge, experiencing diminished mental capacity, or require court intervention to prepare an estate plan.