When it comes to estate planning and asset protection, the rules and regulations and statutes are amazingly vast. It is always recommended that you visit an experienced attorney that specializes in asset protection and estate planning before you decide to make any decisions that impact the future and how it is preserved.
Per Legal Zoom, there are about 9 important steps to follow to execute a successful estate plan. Remember, having an experienced attorney do this planning for you is highly recommended.
Cover Estate Planning Basics
A comprehensive estate plan should consider what happens in the event of both death and disability. It should take into consideration what you want to happen to your property upon your death, the financial well-being of your family, the degree to which probate can be avoided, and how to eliminate or minimize estate taxes. These goals can be accomplished through various means, including properly setting up ownership of assets, designating beneficiaries where possible, and executing one or more estate planning forms. In addition to financial matters, an estate planning checklist should also consider the guardianship of any minor children, and medical treatment planning.
Plan Your Asset Protection
Any asset that has title documents (real estate, motor vehicles, etc.) can be set up so that upon your death the title automatically passes to a co-owner. Most often this is a spouse. The title document must clearly indicate that ownership is held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, as tenants by the entireties, or as community property.
There are two potential downsides to adding someone as a joint owner. First, you will need the joint owner to agree to any sale of, or loan secured by, the property. Second, if the value of the property exceeds a certain amount, it could trigger the federal gift tax.
Determine Beneficiary Designations
For some assets you can designate someone to receive the property upon your death, without giving them any current ownership rights. This is often done with bank and other financial accounts (usually called pay-on-death or POD). Designating a beneficiary is available in almost all states for brokerage accounts, and in some states for real estate, motor vehicles, and other assets with title documents (usually called transfer-on-death or TOD).
Cover Your Debts With Insurance
One way to ensure that all of your debts (including burial expenses) are paid in the event of death or disability, and that your loved ones are provided for, is through auto, homeowners, disability, and life insurance.
Get a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament takes care of any property that must be probated. A last will can also deal with the care of any minor children (or adult children with disabilities). You designate who will get any property that hasn’t been handled through joint ownership or a beneficiary designation, appoint someone you trust as the executor of your estate, and appoint someone you trust to be the guardian or conservator of your minor or disabled children.
Those are just the first four! Head over to Legal Zoom to find out the rest of the steps in this arduous process!