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Preparing an Estate Plan: Top 3 Issues to Keep in Mind

Estate planning is a valuable tool to help your loved ones in case you are not present to provide for them. However, estate planning can present some challenges that might not be obvious or arise until after you are gone, which may be too late. Below are a few common estate planning issues to consider while preparing your estate plan:

Family Holding Hands at the Beach

Family at the beach. Free public domain CC0 photo.

Draft Your Will Correctly

The most important but often overlooked issue is ensuring that your will is valid and enforceable. Writing a will is a futile exercise if a court will not recognize its validity. Fortunately, the legal requirements for writing your will are relatively low.

First, most states require that the testator (the one writing the will) is a legal adult, meaning you must be at least 18 years of age and/or legally married. Second, you should check your state’s witness requirements. Many states require that a will be signed in the presence of one or two witnesses. Some states permit the use of handwritten or videotaped wills in addition to or in lieu of a witnessed will. Finally, you should check whether your state requires your will to be notarized.

Plan for Your Life as Well as Your Death

Counterintuitively, an estate plan may also be necessary to address certain situations while you are still alive. For instance, you may become injured in an accident or suffer a deliberating disease that could leave you paralyzed, in a coma, or otherwise unable to take care of yourself. Supplemental estate documents such as an advanced healthcare directive or living will can guide your caregivers if you are unable to articulate your own healthcare wishes.

Bequeath All Your Assets

You can provide gifts to anyone you want, but both the gift and the beneficiary must be named. If you forget to name a beneficiary in a written will, that beneficiary may be out of luck. Conversely, if a gift no longer exists, the beneficiary might not receive anything either. For instance, if you give your house to your child, but you sell the house during your lifetime, then your child obviously cannot receive that house. Similarly, you should update your will after a major life event, such as the birth of a new child, a marriage, or a divorce.

Manage Your Digital Assets

You should also remember to manage and distribute your digital estate. Some testators have social media accounts that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or hold Bitcoin and other crypto currency that exceed the value of their physical property. Conversely, many banks are easiest to access through an online account. Even if your digital property isn’t financially valuable, they may still hold sentimental value. Digital photographs on social media or email accounts may impact how your family, friends, or the public view you after you are gone. In these situations, it is important to keep your digital access information, such as banking or social media logins, in a secure but accessible location for your beneficiaries and/or executors to reach.

Do I Need An Attorney For Estate Planning in Pennsylvania?

If you are considering establishing an estate plan, you should consult with a skilled estate lawyer in Pennsylvania. Estate planning is contingent upon your state’s laws, it is important to work with a local attorney in Pennsylvania so that you receive the most accurate legal advice regarding your estate. A skilled estate lawyer can help you organize your estate, answer any of your questions, and help you determine what is essential to your estate planning based on your specific needs.


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