If you’re new to the idea of estate planning and aren’t sure where to begin, there are a number of ways you can go about the planning process. One of the easiest ways is to develop a list of goals you have for your estate plan and then check those goals off as you make progress. Of course, there is no single checklist that applies to everyone, and you should always talk to your attorney to develop a plan that best suits you, but here’s a simple checklist of estate planning goals you can use to get started.
Goal 1: Ensuring your family gets your property. Your estate plan should state in detail how you want your property distributed to your family, friends or others.
Goal 2: Ensuring your children or dependents are cared for. Your plan can set up financial security for those in your care who cannot care for themselves.
Goal 3: Reducing your estate taxes. The amount you leave to your beneficiaries often depends on how much you will have to pay in estate taxes. A good estate plan minimizes estate taxes as much as possible, though you should start planning as soon as possible as estate tax laws can change rapidly.
Goal 4: Avoiding probate. Like estate taxes, it may not be possible to completely avoid probate. You can, however, take advantage of various estate planning options to ensure the probate process is as brief and as easy as possible.
Goal 5: Ensuring your medical wishes are met. An estate plan lets you select what kind of care you want to receive if you’re incapacitated.