Learn about the estate planning process

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What to Expect

If you're considering creating an estate plan, you may be wondering what exactly is involved. Here are the basic steps:

1. Preparation. Before the initial meeting with your estate planning attorney, you'll want to think through your current situation. What does your estate plan need to cover? Do you have minor children you need to plan for? Do you have a blended family? What's your financial situation? Will you need to worry about estate tax planning? Do you own a business? These are all situations your estate planning attorney will need to know about in order to help you establish an effective estate plan.

You'll also want to think about who you want to name as your fiduciaries - executor, trustee, guardian for your children. Your attorney can help fully explain the duties these people will fulfill.

2. Consultation. When you meet with your estate planning attorney, he or she will find out about your family and your financial situation, and will help you think through the estate planning strategies that are best for you. Don't be afraid to ask questions, both during the meeting and afterward. You want to make sure you understand every aspect of your estate plan.

3. Establishing Your Plan. You and your attorney will work together to put your estate plan in place. This will most likely include several different documents. If your estate plan is a trust-based plan, then it will also include funding your trust (transferring property into a trust).

4. Maintaining Your Plan. Once the initial documents are created and signed, you'll need to periodically review your estate plan to make sure that it still meets your needs. Changes in your personal circumstances, like the birth of a child or the purchase of out-of -state property, can necessitate a change in your estate plan. Changes in the law can require an adjustment in your plan, too.

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