Getting Started on Your Estate Plan
By Julie Garber, About.com Guide
- What Happens Without a Plan
- Determine if You Need a Plan
- Understand Guardianship
- All About Probate
- Work With an Attorney
- Understand the Planning Process
- Know How Your Property is Titled
- Plan for Your Beneficiaries
- Select Your Fiduciaries
- Understand Death & Debt
- Maintain Your Estate Plan
- 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.
- What is Estate Planning?
- What Happens Without a Last Will and Testament
- What Happens Without a Disability Plan
- What Happens Without an Estate Plan
- What Happens to the Inheritance of a Minor Beneficiary
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.
- Top 5 Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan
- Estate Planning for Your Family Situation
- Estate Planning for Your Financial Situation
- How to Calculate Your Net Worth
- Chart for Calculating Your Net Worth
- You're Young, Do You Need an Estate Plan?
- What Same Sex Couples Need to Know About Estate Planning
- Step by Step Overview of the Estate Planning Process
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.
- What is Guardianship or Conservatorship?
- What Does a Guardian or Conservator of an Incapacitated Person Do?
- What Does a Guardian or Conservator of a Minor Do?
- How Much Does Guardianship or Conservatorship Cost?
- Ways to Avoid Guardianship or Conservatorship
- How Does a Revocable Living Trust Avoid Guardianship or Conservatorship?
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.
- What is Probate?
- What is Ancillary Probate?
- How to Avoid Ancillary Probate
- When is Probate Necessary?
- How Long Will Probate Take?
- How Much Will Probate Cost?
- How to Open a Probate Estate
- How to Probate an Estate
- What is an Estate Lawyer and What Does an Estate Lawyer Do?
- What is a Probate Judge and What Does a Probate Judge Do?
- Top 4 Reasons to Avoid Probate
- Using Joint and POD Accounts to Avoid Probate
- Using a Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
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.
- What is an Estate Planning Attorney?
- How to Determine if You Need to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
- 7 Tips for Finding an Estate Planning Attorney
- 6 Questions to Ask a Prospective Estate Planning Attorney
- How to Get Organized to Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney
- How to Determine if Your Estate Planning Attorney's Fees Are Reasonable
- How to Minimize Legal Fees During Life
- How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death
- Your Estate Planning Attorney, Your Trusted Advisor
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.
- Should You Write Your Own Will?
- Overview of Types of Property Ownership
- Understanding Death, Estate and Inheritance Taxes
- Step by Step Overview of the Estate Planning Process
- Overview of the Essential Estate Planning Documents
- 4 Tips for Getting Started on Your Estate Plan
- 10 Steps to Creating a Good Estate Plan
- How to Keep Your Estate Plan Private
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.
- Understanding Individual Ownership of Property
- Understanding Joint Ownership of Property
- Understanding Title by Contract
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.
- Can You Disinherit Your Spouse?
- Can You Disinherit Your Children?
- What's the Difference Between Per Stirpes and Per Capita Distributions?
- Options for Paying Minor Beneficiaries Their Inheritance
- Options for Paying Adult Beneficiaries Their Inheritance
- How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
- Needs and Uses of Life Insurance in Estate Planning
- Benefits of Creating Lifetime Trusts for Your Beneficiaries
- Asset Protection for You vs. Asset Protection for Your Beneficiaries
- Using AB Trusts or ABC Trusts to Protect Your Spouse
- How to Protect Your Family from Creditors, Lawsuits and Divorcing Spouses
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.
- What is a Fiduciary?
- What is a Personal Representative?
- What Does a Personal Representative Do?
- How to Choose a Personal Representative/Executor
- What is a Trustee?
- What Does a Successor Trustee Do After the Trustmaker Dies?
- How to Choose a Successor Trustee
- How to Choose a Health Care Agent
- How to Choose an Attorney in Fact for Your Power of Attorney
- How to Choose a Guardian for Your Children
- Pros and Cons of Appointing Co-Trustees
- Pros and Cons of Appointing Institutional Fiduciaries
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.
- Who Pays Off a Deceased Person's Debts?
- How Are a Deceased Person's Debts Handled Before and During Probate?
- What Happens to a Payable on Death Account When the Owner Dies?
- What Happens to a Joint Account When an Owner Dies?
- What Happens to Life Insurance When the Insured Dies?
- Does Life Insurance Have to Be Used to Pay a Deceased Person's Bills?
- What Happens to a Retirement Account When the Owner Dies?
- Does an IRA or 401k Have to Be Used to Pay a Deceased Person's Bills?
- Do the Other Owners Have to Pay a Deceased Tenant in Common's Final Bills?
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.
- How Often Should You Review Your Estate Plan?
- Top Reasons for Updating Your Estate Plan
- Will Your Will Work in All 50 States?
- Do You Need to Update Your Will When You Move to a New State?
- Will Your Estate Plan Work When It's Needed?
- Will Your Old Estate Plan Still Work Today?
- Who Should You Tell About Your Estate Plan?
- Where Should You Keep Your Estate Planning Documents?
- Estate Planning Organizer - Contact List
- Estate Planning Organizer - Location List
Estate Planning Resources
Still not sure about something? Then check out the estate planning resources listed in this section.
- Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning
- Estate Planning Do's
- Estate Planning Don'ts
- Glossary of Estate Planning Terms
- Archive of 2008 Weekly Wills & Estate Planning Newsletters