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Estate Planning 101: How Do I Protect My Family After I Pass?

“How will I be able to provide for my family after I’m gone?” That question has kept some of us awake in the middle of the night.

While there is no way to predict the future, resources exist to help you achieve a significant level of peace of mind. Stressing out about things beyond your control will only get you so far. Instead, focus on the tools already at your disposal.

Start Organizing Your Estate

Your estate is the collection of all your finances and valuable possessions you wish to bequeath to your beneficiaries after you pass. Take stock of what you own, including your bank accounts, real estate holdings, vehicles, and investment portfolios.  For many of us, our retirement accounts and our life insurance policies are among our largest assets.  Therefore, it is very important to regularly review the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Your estate documents should also provide the names of the people you will entrust with the guardianship of your minor children. Your estate plan may also create trusts for your children and beneficiaries who may not be ready to handle a large inheritance.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you organize your financial world, then draft the appropriate documents necessary to ensure peace of mind. They will also walk you through which tax laws may apply to your estate, as well as options for charitable donations.

Prepare a Last Will and Testament

Your last will and testament will outline your final wishes with regard to who will receive the assets included in your probate estate. Ideally, every person over the age of 18 should consider having a simple will. Passing away without a will can cause legal headaches for your family.

We recommend periodically updating your last will and testament as your family and financial situation evolves.  For many, a review every three years is advisable.

Obtain a Life Insurance Policy

If you turn on the television right now, odds are you are going to see a commercial for at least one life insurance company over the next 30 minutes. With so many options available, a life insurance policy may seem overwhelming.  Your estate planning attorney can help you find an insurance professional who can help smoothly navigate these waters.

You do not want your family to be left in a precarious position after you pass. Life insurance is the easiest way to guarantee that your family will be well taken of financially after you have passed away, especially in the event of an untimely death.

Identify Important Advisors

When planning an estate, we are not expected to have all the answers ourselves. Make a list of the people in your life who you entrust with sensitive personal information. This includes your doctor, your financial advisors, accountants, business partners, and other attorneys where applicable.

You may also want to share the names and contact information of these people with your Personal Representative and your family members, as you never know which records will need to be accessed after you pass away.

Start a Conversation with Your Family

Even if you feel totally secure in your estate plan, your family may not feel as prepared. The conversation may be difficult, but your family needs to understand what will happen when you pass away.

Consider sharing your estate plan with your family, sending them copies of your will, and being upfront about their inheritance. Make sure that they have access to the information and resources they will need when you are gone.

In certain cases, this may not be possible or advisable.  Your estate planning attorney can be a great resource to advise on whether, when and to what extent you should share your estate plan with loved ones.

Make Plans to Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney Today

In today’s unpredictable world, we have all been reminded of how precious the people in our lives are, and the value of our limited amount of time together.

For those of us with families, our worst nightmare is leaving those we care for without the protection they need to carry on a life without us. However, the process can be incredibly overwhelming. A professional estate planning attorney can help you take the first step on this journey and walk you through what you need to know to prepare your family for whatever the future may hold.

If you have questions about the how to prepare your estate, please contact us at (443) 589-5600. At Sessa & Dorsey, we consider the bigger picture at hand and advise our clients on the best estate planning tools for their specific needs and desires. 

Related blog posts:

What is an Estate Plan and Why Do I Need One?

What Happens If I Die Without a Will in Maryland?

Estate Planning for Individuals Who Do Not Have Children

When Should I Update My Estate Plan?

How the Probate Process Works in Maryland

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