A lot of people wait until their golden years to make a solid plan for their estate after death. Many parents start to think about it once they have seen their child grow. But no time is too early for estate planning. Estate planning is so much more than deciding who gets your things.
Beginning with assets and properties, a last will and testament names the people and organizations who receive them as well as the person who will handle these bequests, known as the executor. Other documents in an estate plan can name health care proxies who help decide a person's care if he or she is incapacitated and handle their finances.
Real estate is often the largest and most complicated asset in an estate. If the best idea is selling a property upon bequest, an inheritor may want an attorney and a realtor to weigh in on the consequences of that decision. A probate court will have to approve the sale, especially if a home or property is listed before the executor's work is fully done.
An effective estate plan can reduce the need for conflict between family members and friends over the disposition of assets or profits from their sale. Trusts and retirement accounts for surviving spouses may also be preserved from penalties and taxes with the right financial structures.
Making the right estate plan, regardless of its size or value, may require a consultation with a lawyer on how to get started. No one should go through the estate planning process alone, and an attorney can advise you on the most important points you need to consider in your plans.