Much like the process of building a house, the steps to building an estate plan should be well-defined and carefully considered.
Here are some things to keep in mind when creating your estate plan:
· Get the right “builder.” Just like for a house, you will most likely need to hire an estate planning professional to make sure that what is built is done correctly according to your goals and the vision you have in mind. You will make your wishes known, of course, but you will rely on the builder’s expertise.
· Build a strong foundation. Every house truly needs a strong foundation, and so does your estate plan. The foundation for an estate plan should include the basic elements that are appropriate for your individual situation, which may include a will, living trust, power of attorney, or other important documents.
· Make the necessary additions. Once you’ve finished building a house, you may decide to go back later and add on new rooms. The structure of your estate plan may later need to be modified as well over time. If you created a will a few decades ago that you haven’t looked at since and have had major life changes take place, such as marriage, the birth of new children, or divorce, your will may be out of date. It’s best to review your estate plan at least every few years.
· Protect your investment. When you build a new house, you’ll need to make sure to properly insure it. Although there is no “insurance policy” for an estate plan, there are steps you can take to protect it. One of the most important things you can do is keep beneficiary designations on retirement plans, investment accounts, insurance policies, and other assets up-to-date. These designations can supersede the instructions in your estate-planning documents, so you will want to continue to ensure your beneficiary designations are updated in order to protect how insurance proceeds, investments and other assets are distributed.
· Watch for mistakes. As with any important work, you’ll want to double check for mistakes, misunderstandings, or steps that may be forgotten when it comes to your estate plan. Failing to put intended assets into a trust is one example of an important step that may be missed and could have unintended consequences after you have passed away.
Keeping the process of building your estate plan organized and intentional can serve both you and your loved ones and can help you build a plan that will last beyond your lifetime.
For help building your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.