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5 tips for getting your estate plan under way

Like many people, you may be procrastinating about sitting down with an attorney to map out your estate plan. It may seem to you a huge undertaking.

Putting an estate plan together is really about collecting your thoughts and getting organized. Here are five tips to help you move in the right direction.

1. Establish a deadline. You can probably find one excuse after another to delay getting starting on your estate plan, so set a deadline. Perhaps you want to have the plan in place by your anniversary, your birthday or New Year's Day. Choose a date and write it down.

2. Brush up on the basics. You will find a great deal of general information in books and online. Becoming familiar with terminology and options will help ease you into the whole subject of estate planning. You can save specific questions concerning your own circumstances for your attorney.

3. Start a list of your heirs. Make a list of the people you want as your heirs: your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends. Remember to provide for anyone with special needs as well as your pets. Consider how you want people to inherit; for example, it is probably not fair to treat your children equally in terms of what they should have. One child may be a successful banking executive while another may be a teller who lives paycheck to paycheck.

4. Organize your assets. The easiest way to do this might be to create a spreadsheet. Include bank accounts, stocks, bonds and other financial information. List receivables, personal and real property, credit cards, personal loans and any similar items.

5. Consider health care directives. Decide whom you will name to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Include specific instructions for physicians and other health care professionals.

Make notes 

As you go along, make notes and jot down questions you want to ask. Remember that you do not have to go through the planning process alone. Your attorney will guide you, and you can help by providing well-organized information that will get your estate planning off to a fast start.



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