Published on August 20, 2014
• Decide how and when your beneficiaries will receive your assets. There are basically two ways to leave your assets to your beneficiaries - outright or in trust. Which way you choose will depend on the beneficiary's age, health, and family and financial situations. Your estate planning attorney will walk you through the needs of each beneficiary and then help you decide what to do for each one. If a trust is recommended for a beneficiary, you'll need to determine how long it should continue - for a fixed number of years, until the beneficiary reaches a specific age or achieves a specific goal, or for the beneficiary's entire lifetime. You'll also need to determine what will happen to the assets remaining in the trust if the initial beneficiary dies before the trust funds have been completely used. • Choose someone to be in charge. This is probably the most important step in creating your foundational estate plan - choosing someone who will act in your best interests if you become disabled, or in your beneficiaries' best interests after you die. Each of the four or five essential estate planning documents will require you to select a fiduciary to act on your behalf either during your lifetime or after your death. Your estate planning attorney will explain the function of each fiduciary and help you decide who to choose in each situation. You'll also need to select one or two backups in case your initial choice isn't able or doesn't want to serve.