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What should I think about when I'm making an estate plan?

An estate plan is the cornerstone of what your family is going to do with your assets after you die. There is much more to an estate plan than this. No matter how old you are now, it isn't too early to think about what you are going to include in your estate plan.

As you think about your estate plan, there are a few questions that you should think about because they can help you to determine what you need to include in your plan.

What do you want to happen to your assets?

Your assets are the items that your family members are likely going to fight over after you are gone. You can make the division of assets really easy for them by using your will to outline who should get what. Make sure that you also include items that might not have a monetary value but that they might fight over.

You might find that using trusts can help you to divide your assets. There are many different types of trusts and things to consider when you are adding trusts to your estate plan. It is usually best to discuss the different types and learn how they will each impact your life now and into the future.

Do you have any special instructions for pets, plants or other living things?

If you have plants or pets, you need to make plans for those. While you might not be as concerned about plants, you likely don't want to see your beloved pet land in a shelter because you didn't make any plans for the pets. Pet trusts are one option you have here.

Alternatively, you could discuss the pet with a trusted family member or friend to see who would be willing to care for the animal. You could then notate this information in your estate plan so you know your pet or other living thing will go to a loving home.

Who should make decisions about your health care and finances if you can't make them?

Power of attorney designations are a necessary component of your estate plan. These documents let people know who is going to make decisions for your finances and health care. You can choose the same person for both designations or each can have a different designee.

Make sure that you discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or people who will hold this power. If you think your family members might take issue with your wishes or have questions about them, you might need to discuss this with them, too.

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