10 Simple Steps to an Estate Plan

It is never easy discussing end-of-life preparations and estate planning. For this reason, many individuals avoid the topic altogether and then are forced to deal with confusion, uncertainty, and lack of clarity when a loved one suffers an untimely death. The following are 10 steps that a person can take when planning their estate.

  • 1. Make a Will

If an individual does not make a will stating who will inherit their property or who will serve as a guardian for their children, decisions are made for the family by the state. Creating a will by either sitting down with an attorney or using an online form will eliminate this confusion.

  • 2. Consider a Trust

Choosing to hold property in a living trust protects survivors from having to go through probate court when you die. Probate court is not only time-consuming, but it can be very expensive.

  • 3. Prepare Healthcare Directives

Healthcare directives are designed to clearly state your wishes in the event that you are not able to make medical decisions for yourself. Living wills and a durable power of attorney give another individual the power to make medical decisions for you based on your wishes if you cannot make these decisions yourself.

  • 4. Create a Financial Power Of Attorney

Creating a durable power of attorney for your finances gives someone you trust the power to make financial decisions for your property if you are unable to make these decisions yourself because of being incapacitated.

  • 5. Protect Your Children’s Property

It is a good idea to designate an adult to care for and manage property that minor children may inherit after your death. It may be wise to select the same individual to do this who you selected to be the personal guardian in your will.

  • 6. File Beneficiary Forms

In most states, designating an individual as a beneficiary for bank accounts, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, and retirement plans makes the account automatically payable to that individual upon your death and allows them to skip the probate process.

  • 7. Purchase Life Insurance

This is especially important for those who own a home, have minor children, or who have foreseen debts when they die. It provides a level of financial protection for those left behind.

  • 8. Learn About Estate Tax

In 99.7 percent of cases, people will not need to pay federal estate tax. Only individuals who have an estate of more than $5.43 million, a number that increases annually to adjust for inflation, will have to pay this tax. Additionally, spouses can transfer twice that amount without taxation. All assets left to a spouse who is a US resident or that are left to a qualifying charity are exempt from taxes.

  • 9. Prepay Funeral Expenses

In lieu of a funeral payment plan, something that is not always the most reliable, you have the option to create a payable on death account at your bank. These funds will be used to cover funeral related expenses.

  • 10. Make Final Arrangements

Now is the time to make decisions regarding organ donation and body donation. Additionally, now is the time to decide if you wish to be buried or if you prefer cremation.


Planning for death is something that no one wants to do. Yet the reality is that at one point or another all of us will either have to deal with the death of a loved one or will leave loved ones behind in the aftermath of our death. For this reason, now is the time to make wise decisions and plan for your estate. Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys at A&T Legal Group to learn more about planning for your estate.




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