- About 60% of Americans don’t have a will
- Millions of Americans don’t realize that a will won’t answer all the questions about what they want to happen after they pass on
- Estate plans are designed to be revised as your goals become clear or circumstances change
Defining your goals for estate planning in specific terms is the surest way to get the outcome you intended after you pass away. With concrete goals and definitions of success, you can create a plan to achieve your most desirable outcome.
Getting to this point may seem like a lot of work, but it just involves finding a way to put your intentions into words. The human mind is impressive in that it can treat vague concepts as known fact. It’s only when people try to communicate that concept to others that they may realize how rusty they are on the exact details. But with time and a little bit of learning, they can eventually give shape to the concept in a way everyone can grasp from a legal standpoint.
You just have to recognize how far you have to go to get from A to B — AKA to get from a vague notion of your ideal posthumous outcome to one that’s put into words down to the last detail. You and your Atlanta estate planning attorneys can make this journey together, and the following estate planning goal setting tips can help you get there.
Don’t Assume Your Estate Planning Attorney Wants to Make Assumptions for You
Like most legal matters, estate planning is not straightforward. This complexity can make many people feel overwhelmed during estate planning, especially as they attempt to dive into smaller details. They may want to take a step back and say: “You take care of it! I just want my property to go to my loved ones with as minimal stress as possible, so just make that happen.”
Putting your posthumous wishes into words in this fashion brings you part of the way towards defining your goals, but it’s not enough on its own.
The fact is that there are many viable strategies individuals can use to achieve their goals, each with its own set of pros and cons. You cannot leave your Atlanta estate planning attorneys to assume which path you’ll want to take. You have to instead make that choice obvious by laying out the specifics of what a successful execution of your estate plan might look like. Only then can your attorney comfortably recommend which options best fit the bill and help you come to a conclusive decision.
It’s similar to (although far more consequential than) a restaurant recommendation. You say, “I’m hungry, where should I eat?” and any knowledgeable person-about-town will respond with a bevy of follow up questions: How much do you want to spend? What are you in the mood for? Who are you taking, and are you trying to make an impression on them?
In the same vein, when people tell their estate planning lawyer that they just want their stuff to go to their loved ones with minimal hassles, we ask: Which family members are most important? What happens in the event that their circumstances change? How do you want to address taxes, and are you worried about creditor claims on your estate?
In this way, your broad, loosely defined goal slowly fills up with specifics an estate planning legal advisor can use to make expert recommendations to achieve each criteria.
Start Putting Your Estate Planning Goals and Other Important Details Into Words
We mentioned above how the human mind can tend to accept a vague notion as a concrete fact until they’re asked to communicate that notion in a way someone else can perfectly understand. The process of defining your concept of your estate plan and its criteria for success will therefore take some time. So you may as well start now!
Begin by trying to put your estate planning goals into just a few sentences. It’s ok if these sentences sound vague at this stage. For example, you may have a goal that says: “I want my business to remain family owned after I die.” Or: “I want people to remember me and my passions through a legacy of donations and charitable action performed in my name.”
With these broad definitions in place, you can then start asking yourself some of the most common questions someone else may want to ask you when learning about the specifics of your estate plan:
- Who are your primary beneficiaries going to be?
- Who are your secondary beneficiaries?
- Who takes priority if it turns out your assets can’t be spread around as much as you thought?
- Will you need someone to look after your children or grandchildren?
- Will you transfer ownership stakes in businesses or investments to others or liquidate them?
- Do you want your family to avoid probate court?
- Do you want your named executor to handle all of the execution of your estate plan, or do you want to spread the duties to trustees?
- Will you create a significant estate tax burden for some or multiple of your beneficiaries?
- How do you want your estate to handle contested claims or liens from creditors?
Chances are, you will know the answers to some of these questions right off the bat whereas others will leave you stumped. That’s okay! You can use the “I don’t know” answers as blanks to fill in later as you do more research and bounce ideas off of your estate planning attorney team.
Remember That Your Goals Will Evolve as You Age and Work With Your Atlanta Estate Planning Attorneys
Another thing that paralyzes individuals during estate planning is that they begin to worry, “what if I get something wrong?” They can be too afraid to commit to a choice or define a goal because their answer to prompting questions could accidentally lead their attorney down the wrong path. Or, they may be terrified that the estate plan they put in place today will be ruined when things change in the future.
What you need to realize is estate plans change all the time! According to AARP, 81% of those 72 and older have at least some estate planning documents, but not always enough to completely define their goals. Estate plans are designed to be works in progress, right up until the time of your passing if need be. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to expand, revise and improve your estate plan as you mull your decisions longer or bring new information to light.
So don’t be scared to start putting your estate plan goals into words right away. You can start the conversation with one of our Atlanta estate planning attorneys now or use our free estate planning worksheet to start the process of defining your goals on your own.
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