Estate Planning – Where Do I Begin?

Deciding how to transfer the assets you’ve worked hard for can be one of your most important decisions. Estate planning involves the process of arranging asset transfer as well as physical care to plan for unforeseen future events.

As such, the estate planning process requires some big decisions to be made—so where do you begin? We help you understand the process for getting started with planning your estate.

Understanding Necessity: Do You Really Need a Will?

Some people may wonder if they need a will. Perhaps you do not have many assets or simply do not care what happens to them after you are gone.

However, some kind of estate plan is almost always a good idea. If you do not decide what happens to your property and assets, the state will decide for you. The decisions the state makes may not be what you would have chosen for your assets or your family. Making your wishes clear in writing ensures that your assets are transferred accordingly.

Estate planning also allows you to set up trusts or designations that allow for children, a spouse, or a pet to be taken care of and mitigate the impact of taxes on your estate.

Finally, having a living will (also called an advance directive) along with your regular will can ensure you are taken care of according to your wishes rather than having someone else decide for you in the event that you become ill or injured and are no longer able to care for yourself or make important decisions about your care.

Determining Your Wishes: Assets, Beneficiaries, and Long- Term Care

Now that you have determined you need a will, the next step is to determine your wishes for your estate. These include decisions such as:

  • Asset distribution. Your assets, including real estate, stocks and bonds, cash, cryptocurrency, and physical items, can be donated to charity, split between family members, or transferred to one person.
  • Your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are the people who will benefit from your estate and receive a portion of your assets. You will need to designate beneficiaries, which can be people or entities such as charitable organizations.
  • Trusts. Trusts may be necessary for asset protection or other financial advantage, and to ensure the proper care of any minor children or pets left behind, so you will need to decide if this is something you want to do as part of your estate planning.
  • The executor of your will. You will need to choose an executor of your will. This person will be responsible for carrying out your wishes after you are gone.
  • Your wishes for long-term care. A living will, commonly filed with a traditional will, requires you to make decisions for your long-term care in the event of an injury or illness, such as whether you want to be resuscitated or receive life support.

The Best Time to Get Started: Don’t Wait

People often ask when they should have a will or start the estate planning process. As long as you are a legal adult, there is no reason to wait to plan your estate. Even if you do not have a significant amount of assets now, you can always adjust the will over time to reflect your current assets and circumstances.

Don’t wait to start the estate planning process. You do not need a significant amount of assets, a terminal illness, or a disability to plan your estate. Planning your estate now can protect you in the future and ensure that your wishes for both your property and your physical health are carried out.

Taking the First Step: Finding an Attorney

You don’t have to have all the answers to your estate planning process figured out before speaking with an attorney. In fact, it’s best to consult an attorney once you have some idea of your wishes for your estate. Your attorney will help you understand the legal and financial implications of your decisions so you can make informed choices about your property and healthcare.

For many people, the first step is finding an attorney experienced in estate planning and scheduling a consultation to better understand all their options. Once you have the appropriate information, you can make decisions and plan your estate accordingly with the right professional.

If you have questions regarding beginning the process of estate planning in Washington DC, Maryland or Northern Virginia, request a consultation with one of our Washington DC estate planning attornies today.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Law Firm Serving DC, Northern Virginia & Maryland That You Can Trust

The estate planning attorneys at Quinn, Racusin & Gazzola Chartered are here to help whether you are just beginning to consider estate planning or need to update an existing plan for DC, Virginia or Maryland.