Take time out at the end of each year to make sure your estate affairs are in order. It does not matter the size of your estate. Whether big or large, relatives will find a way to fight over the smallest of details if you do not have your affairs in order and easy to follow. You can also leave your spouse and/or children in a legal and financial mess if your papers are scattered in different locations and no one knows where your last will can be found.
First, make sure your will is updated. Use your lawyer or find one locally that can help you with your legal affairs. Do it yourself will kits may lead to a road of disaster. Whatever size your estate may be could be eaten up in legal fees if your affairs are not in proper order. Your will should clearly spell out your wishes down to the last detail. The executor should be appointed by your will and should be someone that is not only trustworthy, but objectively capable of handling the estate. An outside executor, such as an attorney, charges a small percentage of the estate, but may save an enormous amount of money by avoiding disputes. Executors that are also beneficiaries can result in estate litigation if there is any question of how the estate is handled.
Have your will in a safe location along with any current insurance policies, account information, deeds and such other documents that will be necessary to handle an estate. Be aware of accounts that are in joint names or have designated beneficiaries. Depending upon the state you live in, this type of property may pass outside your estate. Let someone that can be trusted know where this information can be located.
Spend some time at the end of the year and make sure your estate is in order. Take some time with your attorney to make sure you know how your estate will be handled in the event of a disability or death. It is also a good time of year to involve your CPA to work on some year-end tax saving advice.
Being prudent will keep a trial attorney from being involved in your estate. It is better to have this handled up front and pay for a good estate plan, than to have your heirs hire someone like myself to
deal with it later.
Stephen Fuller is the managing partner of Fuller Sloan LLC and has practiced in business litigation and consulting for 37 years and has over 25 years representation of the founder of one of the largest sit-down casual restaurants in America. For more information, email Mr. Fuller.