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When Should I Begin Estate Planning?

Most people have an estate, but not all people realize it. An estate includes more than cash in a person’s bank accounts and their home, it includes life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investments, furniture, collectibles, jewelry, automobiles, and their personal possessions.

No matter how small or large we build our estate to be, we can’t take it with us when we die. When that day comes, you probably want to control how your assets and belongings are distributed and to whom.

The only way that you can ensure your personal wishes are carried out, is to provide a detailed and legally enforceable set of instructions stating whom you want to receive your assets, how much you want them to receive, and when you want them to receive them.

If you are smart about how you draft your estate plan, this will all be done with the least amount of court fees, legal fees, and taxes. As you do your planning, you will take into consideration “probate,” and you’ll find ways to reduce the size of your probate estate as to minimize the costs of the probate process.

Here are some examples of what estate planning can do for you:

  • Name a guardian for minor children
  • Name an executor to handle your estate after you pass
  • Name beneficiaries on accounts
  • Include instructions in case you become disabled or gravely ill
  • Include various types of insurance for your family, such as life insurance
  • Reduce the size of your probate assets (to save money)
  • Strategically minimize taxes, court costs and legal fees
  • Include instructions for distributing your valued possessions

Estate Planning is Not Just for Retirees

On April 21, 2016, Prince died at the young age of 57. After much speculation about his will, a Minnesota judge confirmed that despite the fact that the music legend’s estate was worth $250 million, he never wrote a will.

According to court documents, Prince’s banking institution, Bremer Bank, received approval from a judge to handle Prince’s estate until a personal representative was appointed by the probate court.

Meanwhile, Bremer Trust was charged with locating Prince’s heirs under Minnesota’s intestate succession laws, which determine how assets are distributed in absence of a will.

Prince’s untimely death proves that estate planning is not just for retired people. While we may plan on living for a long time, accidents and unexpected illnesses can and do happen every day. In the following circumstances, it’s even more critical that you create an estate plan sooner than later:

  • You have minor children
  • You are on a second marriage
  • You have children from a previous marriage
  • You have stepchildren
  • You want to disinherit a child
  • You own a business
  • You are wealthy

Please know that if you fail to plan and something happens to you, the state will decide how your assets are distributed, and it may not be according to your wishes.

When is the right time to plan? Now, when you have full mental capacity and can dictate how you want your estate handled in case of death or disability.

To get started, contact a Schenectady estate planning attorney from DeLorenzo, Grasso & Dalmata.