There are many understandable reasons for postponing making an estate plan or revisiting the plan one made years ago. For many in Pennsylvania and across the country, procrastinating can lead to tragic consequences with families left to trudge through the loss of a loved one without the guidance of a will, trust or powers of attorney. Fortunately, the process of estate planning is easily handled if broken into small steps.
It may seem overwhelming to inventory one’s belongings and determine how to protect and distribute them. However, many undertake estate planning precisely to spare their loved ones that overwhelming burden. Creating a comprehensive inventory of one’s assets may be time consuming, but it will actually streamline the estate planning process. This is the first step, and it is important to list all assets, including real estate, financial accounts, collectibles and digital assets.
Once one has a thorough catalogue of assets, it is time to reach out to an estate planning attorney who can assist the testator in choosing the most appropriate instruments for his or her circumstances. An advisor can also help one select the people who will play an important role in the estate plan, such as an estate executor, trustees, powers of attorney and guardian for minor children or other dependents. This is also an ideal time to discuss adding a living will to one’s plan, which outlines one’s medical wishes in case he or she is unable to communicate.
Updating an estate plan is something one should do regularly, particularly when life events may change the terms of the documents. Coming to the end of one’s life with outdated beneficiaries, assets that are not included in one’s trust, or fiduciaries that are no longer in one’s life can turn a well-crafted estate plan into a useless document. Meeting regularly with a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney can reduce the chances of this happening.