One of the most common reasons many adults across the country do not have an estate plan is that they do not know where to start.
This is understandable. After all, there are several useful estate planning tools as well as many rules that apply to these tools. Planning for the future can be an overwhelming task to take on. The most common of these tools is a Will – so here are a few tips to help individuals prepare to create a Will.
1. First, take time to learn more
While it is important to make an estate plan, individuals can take time to educate themselves and truly think about how they want to move forward in planning for their family’s future. For example, individuals should:
- Carefully consider their wishes for their future as well as their family’s;
- Review their finances and New Jersey’s taxation guidelines regarding estates; and
- Ensure they understand some of the basics of New Jersey’s estate planning laws.
It can help if individuals consult an experienced estate planning attorney to understand the nuances of estate planning. However, having a basic understanding can be a good starting point.
2. Compile a list of assets
This can seem like a big undertaking, but it helps to create this list one step at a time. Go to each room in the house and make an inventory of all assets, including, but not limited to:
Non-tangible assets – such as retirement accounts or bank accounts – often require individuals to list beneficiaries on the account itself. Therefore, they will not be administered through the Will. It may still be helpful to calculate these assets and include them in the inventory.
Additionally, individuals should also consider the debts they owe when creating their inventory. During probate, executors will have to use the estate assets to pay any remaining debts before the estate administration. So, it helps to be proactive and calculate how debts could affect the whole estate.
3. Consider: Who will receive what?
Has one child shown an interest in the piano? Has another truly appreciated their parent’s stamp collection?
Individuals can leave instructions detailing who should receive which of their assets. If individuals are not sure where to start, they should have an open conversation with their family members about how to manage the property they will leave behind.
Creating a Will can be a complex process, but individuals can make it easier if they prepare, take time to plan for how they will approach their estate plan, and consult an experienced estate planning attorney such as Michelle E. Smith at Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo.