FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC, September 10, 2014 — Estate planning can be complicated, but following attorney Lisa Hughes’ four straightforward steps will make it easier for you and your heirs.
“When I explain estate planning to my clients, I compare it to how I decide on a new hairstyle,” says Hughes, a partner at Yates Campbell & Hoeg LLP. “I talk to my friends, do my research, ask a lot of questions, and pick the professional that will give me the result I want. In the end, I am an informed consumer—and, most importantly, I understand my role in the process.”
Of course, a new haircut is temporary; how you provide for your heirs can affect lives for years to come.
Here are four simple steps that will make it easier to conceptualize and work through creating an estate plan that will protect your family if you die or become disabled.
Four Essential Ideas to Embrace When Creating an Estate Plan
1. Provide your attorney with as much information as possible about your goals, your family’s needs, and your financial status.
There are numerous ways to gather data, including using worksheets that are available from financial advisors and estate planning lawyers, or on the Internet. Once you’ve gathered your data, create a list of:
- All of the people with whom you want to share your benefits,
- Your assets and liabilities,
- Any special circumstances that might exist, and
- The names and contact information of the agents who may have to take care of you or your loved ones, manage your assets, or deal with your creditors.
2. Set a deadline to complete the datasheet and don’t procrastinate.
Schedule the meeting to discuss your estate plan for a date that’s two or three weeks after you begin the datasheet. This provides a reasonable amount of time to gather the information.
3. View your datasheet as a record of your accomplishments.
“In my decades of experience as an estate planner, I have found that completing the datasheet is cathartic for clients,” says Hughes. “The datasheet contains a good summary of where you are in your life. I guarantee that when you look at your datasheet, you will be amazed at how much you have achieved.”
4. Consult a professional.
There’s a lot at stake. While there are online options that allow you to create an estate plan without engaging an attorney, no single, standardized form fits everyone’s needs.
Consider the facts. Your plan must achieve your specific goals, based on your unique mix of assets, liabilities, special circumstances, and state and federal laws, including tax laws. It is important to do your research and find an attorney who has the skills to provide advice and who is willing to educate you so that you can make the decisions that will work best for you and your family.
The Bottom Line
With the right team in place, you will walk away from the estate planning experience with a comprehensive understanding of what you want for your family, the risks associated with the plan, and the costs and maintenance requirements of the plan going forward. Over time, the estate plan may need a tweak, or even a complete makeover, but following these four steps will ensure that your affairs are in order—no matter what the future holds.
Questions? Contact Lisa Hughes by email.
About Lisa Hughes
Attorney Lisa M. Hughes is experienced at preparing wills and trusts, powers of attorney, guardianships, and conservatorships; in administering estates of decedents and incapacitated individuals; and in the related tax and asset-protection planning. Her particular areas of focus include succession planning for closely held businesses, same-sex couples, and incapacitated beneficiaries, as well as certain elder-law challenges and trusts for those with special needs.
A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Hughes is licensed in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, and has more than two decades of experience in estates, trusts, and wealth-planning.
Additionally, Hughes is a member of the Board of Governors of the Trusts and Estates Section of the Virginia State Bar; she is a Public Safety Trainer with the Commonwealth Autism Service; and she serves as legal counsel to Spectrum Housing Foundation, a tax-exempt organization that facilitates support for disabled adults.