J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Important steps to take when completing an estate plan

There are a number of necessary steps that Florida residents should take when drafting a thorough and effective estate plan. Many of these steps are possible to take individually, but some of them require assistance. All of these steps, though, will help ensure loved ones are taken care of after the estate planner's departure. This includes minimizing estate taxes so that possession of assets can be seamlessly transferred to inheritors.

One of the first steps when estate planning is designating an executor for the will. The executor is given the responsibility of not only distributing the estate, but also paying off any remaining debts that are owed. Choosing the right executor is an important first step for obvious reasons -- the executor plays an important role in fulfilling the estate planner's wishes. After this is decided, the next step is often naming beneficiaries.

Naming beneficiaries is an ongoing process. Sometimes an estate planner's wishes regarding who should get what changes. If, for example, the estate planner remarries, has a falling out with a family member or changes their mind, they may want to update the beneficiaries as a result. Many people forget to continually update their beneficiaries, though, which can have unwanted consequences for the loved ones left behind. It is best to keep the list updated as much as possible, and in as specific of language possible.

Lastly, there is the organization of it all. A thorough record of assets will help the executor immensely when it comes time for asset distribution and the paying off of debts. This record keeping can be done digitally or on paper, and should contain every last asset, including insurance policies, bank account records, pensions and much, much more. Some of this can be done individually, but DIY estate planning is often considered troublesome. There are attorneys available to assist with every step of this process.

Source: Consumer Reports, "How to create a bulletproof estate plan," Nov. 12, 2013

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