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The Right Time to Draft a Will

Many people wonder when the right time is to draft a will. The simple answer is that it’s never too soon to get your affairs in order. If you’re worried about what might happen to your assets and belongings after you die, or have loved ones to take care of, outlining your directives in a formal will can ensure your wishes are met.

No one likes to think about dying. Although it’s unpleasant, failing to plan for the inevitable can leave your estate in chaos and your loved ones fighting amongst themselves to settle things. If you’re already wondering if now is the right time to make your will, here are some things to consider before reaching out to an estate planning attorney in Albuquerque.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan manages your assets and belongings after your death. Think of it as a road map providing your loved ones with explicit directions on how you want to handle your affairs. From real estate holdings and financial accounts to personal possessions like automobiles, you can spell out your expectations in one convenient document.

Estate plans aren’t just for the period after your death. You also can draft one that outlines provisions for handling your care and estate if you become incapacitated. Whether through an accident or illness, there’s always the possibility you may become unable to handle your own affairs. If that happens, your estate plan can be a handy document for ensuring your wishes are met.

Starting a family is one of the times when an estate plan becomes necessary if you don’t already have one in place. If you do have one, it’s time to update it to include your children.

When does an estate plan become necessary?

This is a million-dollar question for most people. The answer depends on who you ask. Financial advisors recommend starting the estate planning process the moment you become a legal adult, with updates every 3 to 5 years. Most young people don’t think about an estate plan and put it off until they have significant assets and belongings, or minor children to provide for if they die.

Regardless of your age, here are some common life events that prompt making an estate plan a priority.

Home and property ownership

Buying a home can be a huge financial responsibility. Whether it’s your primary residence, or you invest in real estate property, you’ll want to make sure your new asset is protected if you become incapacitated or pass away. Including provisions for your property in an estate plan can help your heirs avoid the hassle of probate.

Marriage or remarriage

When you get married or remarried, you’re combining your assets. It’s a crucial time to start thinking about estate planning that can address what should happen if you or your spouse die.

Receiving an inheritance

If you are the beneficiary of someone else’s estate, that’s a perfect time to create your own estate plan to protect your new assets and belongings.

Starting a family

Starting a family is a major life milestone for most people. From the birth of your first child and every child thereafter, you should establish and update an estate plan to ensure they receive the care they’ll need if you die. You also can designate how you want your assets and belongings stored and distributed once your children become of legal age to receive their inheritance.

What’s the difference between a will and trust?

Asking about the difference between a will and a trust is a common question among those unfamiliar with the process. Wills and trusts are two components of an overall estate plan. You can have one or the other or both, depending on your specific needs.

A will is a legal document that spells out your final wishes. While it’s technically possible to prepare your own will it’s not advisable for several reasons. Albuquerque, NM wills must meet certain requirements to reduce the likelihood of contesting. Working with a wills and trusts attorney in Albuquerque can ensure you meet all legal mandates.

A trust becomes necessary if you have children to provide for after your death. Trusts ensure minor children receive any inheritance you leave them as part of your will. Trust attorneys in Albuquerque can help you draw up a legally binding trust that includes instructions for how your assets are to be held and when they should pass to your beneficiaries.

Your wills and trusts attorney in New Mexico can review all available options to help you make the best choice for your individual needs.

What’s a guardian?

If you have minor children, you should appoint a legal guardian in your estate plan. A legal guardian agrees to care for your children if something should happen to you before they become legal adults. Most people choose to name a guardian in their wills, but you don’t have to do it that way.

New Mexico guardianship law requires any legal guardian to be over the age of 18. If you fail to name a guardian in your estate plan, the responsibility falls to the New Mexico children and family court. If the court must name a guardian, preference falls to family members if any are available and willing to take responsibility.

Certain life events trigger the need to update your estate plan, including the birth of children and the death of a spouse.

When should you update your estate plan?

Certain life events trigger the need to update your estate plan. Every time you meet one of these criteria, you should reach out to your estate planning attorney in Albuquerque and discuss the necessary adjustments. Some of the most common life events that warrant a call to your attorney include:

  • Birth of children.
  • Buying property or other significant assets not covered in the original draft.
  • Death of a spouse.
  • Diagnosis of a terminal or degenerative disease or illness.
  • Marriage or remarriage.

If you ever have second thoughts about any of the provisions in your estate plan, you can contact your estate planning attorney in Albuquerque and request changes. Sometimes people have a change of heart or a falling out with beneficiaries and no longer want to have them in their estate plans. If that happens, changes can be made.

How do you get started with your estate plan?

Reaching out to a trusted estate planning attorney in Albuquerque is the first step toward getting your affairs in order. Scott Atkinson has more than 30 years of experience in estate planning law in New Mexico. He offers free, no-obligation consultations about your estate planning needs. Give him a call at 505-944-1050 to schedule your appointment.

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