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How to know if you need an estate plan

Estate planning is an important part of preparing for the future, although it's often something people don't consider soon enough. A lack of understanding and misconceptions about the estate planning process can impede proactive measures. However, addressing planning issues now can make decisions down the road more stress-free and seamless.

What is an estate?

When people hear the term "estate planning", they often think of land, property and homes representing large amounts of wealth. This is a common misconception, which can often lead people to believe estate planning is not relevant to their personal situations.

In reality, everything you own - including bank accounts, retirement plans and your personal items - is part of your estate. When you pass on, someone needs to know how to allocate these personal effects and investments to ensure they go to the people you wish to receive them. Estate planning is often more complicated than many people realize, and attorneys who focus on this area can often help their clients navigate these complexities.

When should you start estate planning?

If you have belongings, you can probably benefit from estate planning. The truth is that you never really know what the future holds, and unforeseen circumstances can change your future at a moment's notice. The sooner you begin estate planning, the better the chances that your loved ones can avoid probate when you pass.

When should you update your estate plan?

Having an estate plan in place is a positive beginning, but don't stop there. It is important to keep up with the changes that occur in your life as time goes by, and update your plan appropriately. Many life-changing events trigger the need to review of your estate plan. As people enter and leave your family circle, you should review your estate plan to ensure that you're designating your belongings to the people you wish to receive them.

Following are common life-changing events that may necessitate alterations to estate plans:

  • Birth of a child
  • Death of a family member
  • Divorce
  • Marriage or remarriage

How do you begin the estate planning process?

There are many options and details involved in the estate planning process. It's often best to seek the guidance of a skilled estate planning attorney. An experienced attorney at Wall Wall & Peake can help you clarify your goals and wishes and explain your options.

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