What is the first step of estate planning?

Estate planning is an important part of each person's life. At the end of the day, you need to show what you want to happen to your estate the end of your life. Everyone will have this happen, so planning in advance helps make sure that beneficiaries get what you want them to have and that your assets are split in the way that you want them to be doled out.

Only a little bit over a third of Americans have a will and fewer than half have estate planning documents at all. It's not uncommon to see people avoid talking about estate plans, because they don't want to think about dying. It might be an uncomfortable topic, but doing nothing is far worse than planning in advance. Planning allows you to make decisions about who will be in charge of your care if you can't make decisions for yourself, who should be appointed and allowed access to your accounts to pay bills and even helps you tell the people you love how you want them to celebrate your life after your passing.

The very first thing you should do is have a will that is in writing. If you don't have a will when you pass away, complete strangers will decide how to split your estate and may even make decisions about how to raise your children. The process of asset division comes down to state law in lieu of a will. Usually, assets are split up between your direct family members including your spouse and children followed by other relatives when the state has to determine beneficiaries.

Another thing you should consider is life insurance. This insurance will help provide coverage to meet your family's expenses when you no longer can. This money helps them pay off your debts after your passing.

These are just a few things to think about before you speak to your attorney about your estate. A will is the first step and something you should have drawn up as soon as possible.

Source: Kiplinger, "8 Smart Estate Planning Steps to Die the Right Way," Jane Bennett Clark, Pat Mertz Esswein and Lisa Gerstner, accessed Nov. 01, 2016

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