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Getting Started on Your Estate Plan

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Not sure where to begin on your estate plan? Then start by learning the basics, from what happens without an estate plan, to why you need an estate plan, to understanding the probate process, to working with an estate planning attorney, to how to organize and update your estate plan, to how to handle a deceased person's bills.
  1. What Happens Without a Plan
  2. Determine if You Need a Plan
  3. Understand Guardianship
  4. All About Probate
  5. Work With an Attorney
  6. Understand the Planning Process
  1. Know How Your Property is Titled
  2. Plan for Your Beneficiaries
  3. Select Your Fiduciaries
  4. Understand Death & Debt
  5. Maintain Your Estate Plan
  6. Estate Planning Resources

What Happens Without a Plan

Learn what estate planning is and what will happen to you and your property if you fail to make an estate plan and become mentally incapacitated or die.

Determine if You Need a Plan

The first step in the estate planning process is to determine if you need an estate plan. Find out if you need to make an estate plan to protect your family and/or finances.

Understand Guardianship

Without a disability plan you and your property will end up in a court-supervised guardianship, called conservatorship in some states. Aside from this, property left directly to a minor may end up in a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship. Learn all about guardianship and how to avoid it.

All About Probate

Learn all about probate, from what it is, to when it is necessary, to how much it will cost, to how long will it take, to how to avoid it.

Work With an Attorney

Estate planning is not something that you should do yourself. Learn how to find and hire a qualified estate planning attorney in your area and how to work with and not against your estate planning attorney.

Understand the Planning Process

Putting together an estate plan that will work when it is needed involves understanding fundamental concepts and then applying these concepts in a systematic way that will lead to a good estate plan.

Know How Your Property is Titled

As part of planning your estate, you will need to understand how your property is titled in order to understand who will inherit it after you die.

Plan for Your Beneficiaries

You have many options for leaving your spouse and other beneficiaries their inheritance. Learn the pros and cons of each option and how to protect your beneficiaries from bad decisions, overreaching spouses, and lawsuits.

Select Your Fiduciaries

Deciding who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes if you become mentally incapacitated or die is one of the biggest decisions you will need to make when putting together your estate plan.

Understand Death & Debt

Who has to pay a deceased person's bills depends on how property was titled at the time of death and who the deceased person owed at the time of death.

Maintain Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is not a one shot deal. As things in your life and the law change, you will need to make changes to your estate plan.

Estate Planning Resources

Still not sure about something? Then check out the estate planning resources listed in this section.

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