Here are 30 estate-planning facts you need to know now

Michelle Ungvarsky
Michele Ungvarsky of Estrada Law is an estate planning attorney. She can be reached at 556-2462.
Estate planning is a big field, with lots to take into consideration with your attorney. There are complexities and confusion; but at the end of it all, there’s no doubt that coming up with a solid plan is one of the best paths for retirement, saving, what you can leave behind, and — of course — making things easier on your loved ones.

What follows is a list of things your estate-planning attorney wants you to know. Items range from funeral arrangements to important documentation to life insurance and IRAs. This list is not comprehensive, but it does give you a little insight into the complexities of estate planning. So, here they are, in no particular order:
1. Trusts are not just for wealthy people.
2. Trust assets do not go through the probate process and can be put into action right away.
3. Trusts keep your family business private.
4. Share your plans with those they will affect.
5. Healthcare directives and financial powers of attorney are an important part of your estate plan.
6. Anyone with minor children should have an estate planning attorney draw up guardianship papers.
7. Make sure your family can find your estate plan.
8. If you die without a will or trust, every decision is up to the courts—not you.
9. Wills and trusts can be contested, but it is not nearly as common as you might think.
10. There is a good chance that you will be physically incapacitated before you die.
11. Family members do not always think when an estate is being distributed.
12. Your ex-spouse may be entitled to your assets if you have not changed beneficiaries.
13. There are trusts to provide for everything from your pets to your family’s ability to travel the world.
14. You can place limitations on how your heirs use their inheritance.
15. A good estate-planning attorney can save you an unbelievable amount in estate and other taxes.
16. You can use life insurance and other means to supply funds for a trust.
17. Websites that promise do-it-yourself planning kits are never the answer — they necessarily need to be “one size fits all.”
18. Family members are not the only people you can choose as the executor of your estate — there are professionals who can do this job.
19. You can make annual gifts (currently up to $14,000 per person) tax-free while you are still living.
20. There’s a big difference between a “will” and a “living will” (Both are important).
21. It is never too early or too late to start your estate planning (But the earlier you start, the better).
22. Review your estate plan at least once a year.
23. Review your estate plan after any major life change. (Birth, death, marriage divorce)
24. As you age, your estate planning (and other legal) needs will change focus.
25. Money can typically not be left to minor children directly.
26. Make sure your family knows if you are an organ or tissue donor.
27. Make funeral arrangements (and cover expenses) a part of your estate plan.
28. Small business owners need a succession plan.
29. There are many ways that an estate-planning attorney can help you increase the value of your estate for your heirs (such as stretch payments for IRAs, avoiding taxes with a trust, etc.).
30. Your estate will be responsible for debts accrued during your lifetime.

If you have questions about these items or you are ready to get started creating an estate plan (or updating your existing plan) that takes into account your wishes for your finances, end-of-life affairs and providing for your family, contact Estrada Law, P.C. at 556-2462 to schedule a consultation or join us for a no cost no obligation Estate Planning Workshop. Check our website at PlanItForward for more information.