Face it – most of us have lives that are messy. There are divorces, remarriages, stepchildren, adult children who can’t handle money or are married to freeloaders. Having an estate plan can really help protect us from ourselves; here are some tips on getting started:
Get a will. It’s the most basic of estate planning documents, but less than half of Americans have them. You need a Will because it lets you spell out who gets what – and if you have minor children, your Will lets you choose who you want to raise them and look after their assets until they are adults.
Consider family shortcomings. So what about that child married to a freeloader? Or that child with the substance abuse problem, or the gambling addiction, or the credit issues? If your child were to divorce, do you really want to risk their ex-spouse to getting half of what they inherited from you? Would you want your child’s inheritance going straight to creditors, or being used for drugs or alcohol? Probably not. Which is why you should consider family shortcomings when it comes to estate planning.
Consider stepchildren. If you have step-children that you love like your own, you need to have a Will in place for them to receive anything from your estate. The probate court has no discretion in how your estate gets distributed if you don’t make an estate plan, and Minnesota laws do not recognize step-children as heirs. If you want to honor that relationship, creating your Will is the right thing to do. See our video on blended family estate planning for an idea about a strategy that might work for you. This isn’t the only strategy for blended families, so we would make sure it was the right fit for your family before committing to this plan.
Make decisions about personal property. Beyond real estate and cash, you need to make a plan for treasured family heirlooms. Many estate battles begin over sentimental items, so definitively deciding who gets those special items will help contribute to a smooth transition.
Make decisions about long-term care. Long-term care expenses can quickly devastate an estate, and planning well before you need it is the only real way to protect your assets.
Get an attorney. Each estate planning choice has a number of ramifications you might not know about, so your best bet is to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your planning goals are met.
If you’d like to learn more about estate planning strategies for your family, call our office at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
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