How to prepare for anything when starting a family

The best time to have started to plan your estate was yesterday. The second-best time to have planned your estate is today. Let’s spend some time examining how you can prepare for anything that comes your way when you are starting a family. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will discuss with you what you may want to start thinking about when it comes to planning your estate, who you are planning it for, and how to plan an estate. No matter if you are rich or poor, old or young- there are steps you can take to better prepare for your future and that of your family.

Estate planning refers to thinking ahead and being proactive about the future of your “stuff.” It isn’t so much about your future because an estate plan only becomes relevant when you have passed away. Whether you have created a trust or a will, these are common estate planning vehicles that disburse or distribute property to beneficiaries. A will only distribute property upon your passing. A trust can distribute property while you are still alive but much of the time your trust only becomes funded after you pass away. Until then, an estate plan which you create may not impact your life very much at all.

Who creates estate plans?

Anyone creates an estate plan who is over the age of 18. Minor children cannot legally own property. An estate is comprised of property that you own so minor children do not tend to own estates. Therefore, we are talking about adults. Without exception, we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan believe that having a will is the responsibility of every person 18 years of age or older. It is prudent to have a will. That means that it makes sense, is responsible, and is truly the right thing to do. Planning like this does not necessarily benefit you, but it will benefit your family.

One of the great myths that attorneys in estate planning must battle is the idea that only rich people have wills. This is not true. All people from all areas of our community have wills and take part in estate planning generally. You don’t need to get married first or have children first to need to plan your estate. Rather, the time to plan your will is now- no matter who you are, how much property you own, or how big your home is. This is who plans their estate.

What does it mean to plan your estate?

Planning your estate means being intentional about what happens to all your property after you pass away. Property is a general term that we can use to describe the things that you own at the time of your passing which encompass your estate. You can probably look around the room which you are sitting in right now and see some of the things that you own. These are probably personal property items. On top of that, you likely own some kind of investments whether they are contained in retirement accounts or are things like stocks and bonds. You may also own real estate like a house, land, or investment property.

Determining the property that you own is step number one. This may sound simple but for many of you, it will not be. The more complex your estate is the more effort it will take to inventory the property. Doing this may serve more than one purpose. For example, let’s say that you left your former employer a few years ago but have not thought much about the 401K which you previously had. By inventorying your property to create your will you can realize that the 401K needs to be moved over to an IRA so you can continue to invest. In any event, you should go through your bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments as well as your debts.

Some people lose track of the fact that debts matter when it comes to your estate. If you create a will then an executor must provide notice to any creditors of your passing before distributing the property. This means that if you owe somebody or something money then they can come forward and assert a claim against your estate. If your estate has enough property to make them whole then your executor will pay them each before distributing property to your beneficiaries. Again, this may encourage you to pay down your debts before you pass away. In any event, you should make your executor aware of any debts you have so that he or she can account for them if you pass away.

Where do you need to keep your will once it is drafted?

This is a common question that people ask, and it makes sense why it matters to people. If you go through all the trouble associated with drafting a will then you would want to make sure that the will is kept somewhere safe and secure. Many times, we keep a copy of an important document in digital form. However, a will needs to be witnessed by at least two people to be valid in Texas (in most cases). For that reason, there will need to be an original kept of the will somewhere. The question that we need to answer today is where you need to keep the will exactly.

Some people will tell you that you should keep the will at your attorney’s office if you used an attorney to draft the will. An attorney’s office is secure, and he or she must keep their client’s and former client’s documents safe. However, it is not the most convenient thing in the world for you to have someone else keep track of your will. Suppose that you need the original version of the will to do something. Rather than having it somewhere near you, keeping it at the attorney’s office can be inconvenient.

What about a safety deposit box? This would be an extremely safe (no pun intended) place to keep your will. Anyone who has been to a bank can tell you that the security at a bank is usually top-notch. On top of that, banks do not let just anyone in the safety deposit box vault. However, unless you give the bank the name and information of another person who has a key to your safety deposit box then the will may be stuck in the safety deposit box until a judge can grant your executor letters testamentary that would allow him to access the safety deposit box.

If you have some confidence in the safety of your home, then a good place for your will may be your desk drawer or something similar in your home. That’s not to say that you should put it in your junk drawer where your kids can get access to it. Rather, if you have some place in the home where your kids can’t get to it and where you can access it with ease then that is the place where you may be best off leaving your will. Make sure to destroy any prior versions of your will once you have so that there is no confusion about which version of the will is most current.

When should you start to think about creating an estate plan?

As we mentioned earlier in this blog post, the sooner the better when it comes to creating a plan for your estate. Without a doubt, there are serious advantages to having a plan in place for your family when you are doing anything important. Moving, traveling, going through a medical procedure, or simply living your daily life all pose various levels of risk to you. If you were going on a long trip and didn’t have your will completed, then there would be some lack of peace of mind happening. However, if you already had your will complete then you should be able to breathe easier.

On a practical level, you may not be able to start drafting a will right this minute, but you can begin to mentally organize your life better so that you can start to draft the will whenever the opportunity arises. It makes good sense to begin by organizing your property, assigning dollar values to the property, and then determining who you want to receive what property upon your passing. You may plan on these subjects after talking to friends, family, or even a charity that you donate to with some frequency.

Each of you reading this blog post will make decisions on estate planning differently. However, one of the most surefire ways to plan an estate is to utilize the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to help you. We offer consultations that are free of charge and provide you with the option to ask questions and receive feedback. Whether you are an experienced will drafter or are doing this for the first time our attorneys would be honored to sit down and speak to you about estate planning and what to watch out for.

Why should you plan your estate?

We are going to devote the final section of today’s blog post to answering the question posed by the title of the blog itself. All the questions which we asked and answered today are geared toward educating you on the estate planning process. However, this section is intended to motivate you first and foremost and information second.

Learning the who’s, what’s, and where’s of estate planning for your young family is important as far as information is concerned but you also need to understand why you should be doing what you are doing as far as estate planning. More important than that, even, is discovering what your personal “why” is. If you can find a “why” that is important enough, then you will run through a brick wall to get something done. On the other hand, if you can’t find a “why” important enough then you will struggle to do any of this planning that we have been talking about today. So, it pays to slow down and take some time to go through your life and figure out exactly why you would want to read a blog like this or go through the effort to create a will in the first place. Odds are there are other things that you could be doing which are more enjoyable at the moment. Think hard and focus on what matters most to you about your life and the life of your family to find your “why.”

On a personal level, I can tell you that everything I do is geared toward doing what is best for my four children. The work I perform, the way that my wife and I spend our money and the estate planning that we do is geared towards doing what is best for them. My wife and I have other objectives in our lives that we want to accomplish but on a material level, first and foremost we want to do what is best for our children. We are laser-focused on that objective and have been since our oldest child was born.

Over time, that goal has been so ingrained into us that it is easy to remember what our “why” is. The more you do something with a certain goal in mind, the more it will become second nature. It will become the essence of who you are. Finding you why and becoming disciplined to accomplish goals in line with that why are what you need to focus your attention on. Everything after that- including estate planning – is simple once you discover your why.

Once you start to have children you can think more about what you want to provide for them now and in the future. One of the critical things that you can do to get ready for the future of your children is to determine who will care for them if something was to happen to you and your spouse. Naming a guardian within your will for your children is a responsible thing to do. Think about who in your life can be with them until they turn 18. This should be a person who has a relationship with your children and with whom you are comfortable raising the children.

Another consideration to make is how are you going to provide financially for your children if something happens to you and your spouse. If you are younger or have not built up much in the way of net worth, then funding a trust at this stage of your life probably is not realistic. What you and your spouse should both do is investigate different options for life insurance. Depending upon your age, your career, and your health you may find that life insurance costs less than a meal out each month. For that, you can insure yourself until you have enough money in the bank that your spouse and children would be ok financially were your income to go away.

When you have life insurance and name your children as the secondary beneficiaries you can create a testamentary trust within your will. This allows a trustee which you will also name in the will to distribute the property in that trust at specific times in the future. You and your spouse can think about what those big dates are and what you want the trustee to be able to distribute at that time. This means being intentional about how you allocate and distribute the money.

Otherwise, once you have the financial and estate-related matters squared away when it comes to planning then the rest of the preparations for young families should be easier. That’s not to say that parenting children and taking care of your marriage are ever easy. However, you should find that the rest of the family life you have fallen in place more clearly and with less strife than you otherwise would have encountered had you not taken the time and been intentional about the estate planning.

When you need to get moving on estate planning a great way to get the ball moving and not look back is to meet with an attorney. That doesn’t commit you to hiring an attorney necessarily but what it does is build up some momentum, so you are more prone to taking action rather than continuing to put off estate planning. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offer free-of-charge consultations and we would be honored to meet with you to discuss your family and how to plan for everything that comes with building a life together.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of estate planning and what may occur when a probate case is to be filed which involves your family.

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