There are several layers to estate planning and going from zero estate-planning to completion of an advanced estate plan in one step is not required, practical or even advisable.
Farm succession planning, and transfer taxes such as gift taxes, estate taxes, generation-skipping transfer taxes, property taxes and income taxes—are all layers to your estate plan. These advanced layers are necessary, and there should be a plan for them. However, if you don’t have the essential estate planning documents in place, you are putting the “cart before the horse.”
Everyone needs a Durable General Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, and a Will. If you don’t have them yet, you should get them. These documents are not one-size-fits-all; that is, the provisions included in the documents are tailored to your needs.
Many people assume that basic estate planning documents are, just that, basic and that little customization or creative planning is involved. These documents are not ‘one size fits all’! Don’t be tempted into doing this yourself or hiring any paralegal or attorney who agrees to take your money. The legal ramifications for you and your family are great. It doesn’t pay to be “penny wise and pound foolish.” Ask your friends and other advisors; find someone you trust and with whom you can communicate comfortably. You don’t need to be intimidated, or baffled, or directed; your estate-planning attorney needs to fit you, not the other way around.
Once your basic plan is in place, and you’re more familiar with the process, your attorney and the terminology involved, consider whether you need advanced estate planning, or more formalized business succession planning.
Start small-But Start!