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3 steps to take now for estate planning

We often discuss how estate planning is an important life step for anyone. No matter how much cash you have in the bank or whether you have children or not, there are benefits to creating a will or completing other estate plans. Your situation and financial circumstances do have a lot to do with how you go about creating those plans, but here are three steps that everyone should take.

First, identify what you want to accomplish with your estate plans. A few weeks ago, we talked about setting strong estate goals to keep your heirs out of probate woes, and that's a good place to start. If you don't know what your goals are, then you might flounder through the estate planning process without getting that much accomplished.

Second, take inventory of all your assets. This includes cash you have on hand as well as investment and retirement accounts, but it also includes real property such as real estate and vehicles. Other assets you might have include family heirlooms, art, jewelry or items that just have sentimental value to you and loved ones. Don't overlook your creative or other intangible assets. Your brand, family reputation, writings or ideas could all be worth protecting.

Finally, take a realistic look at your financial situation. Are you in debt, and what kind of debt is it? Certain debt won't transfer to your loved ones, but if you have a mortgage on family property, you might want to consider how that debt will be resolved if you are no longer around. Failing to consider such issues can result in your family losing their home or other legacies. For more information about how to protect your assets and ensure finances are resolved through estate planning, consider working with an estate law professional.

Source: Bankrate, "5 wise estate-planning steps," Jennie Phipps, accessed Jan. 04, 2017

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