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What is the Estate Planning Process?

Grand Rapids & Ionia Attorneys

Estate Planning Attorneys Grand Rapids Ionia MI


Are you thinking of creating an estate plan in the near future? Regardless of the size of your estate, we recommend hiring an attorney for peace of mind. Our estate planning attorneys in Grand Rapids and Ionia will be able to help guide you through the process so no stone is left unturned.

In the meantime, here’s what you can expect during the estate planning process.

Itemize Your Valuable Assets

In the event of someone’s death, it’s not uncommon for the survivors to argue over the valuable items left behind. The good news is that estate planning can help reduce these arguments amongst loved ones by clearly stating the decedent’s wishes.

For the first step of the estate planning process, you’ll need to make a list of every valuable item inside and outside of your home.

These items may include but are not limited to:

  • Vehicles
  • Lawn equipment
  • Power tools
  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Antiques
  • Furniture
  • Collectibles

Don’t be surprised if the list is longer than you expect. In general, we tend to accumulate a lot of possessions over the course of a lifetime. Take as much time as you need to make sure every valuable item is listed.

Also, use this opportunity to think about who you’d like to inherit your valuables upon your death. Having a clear estate plan that includes all of your valuables can also help reduce the risk of inheritance disputes.

Related: Do I Need an Estate Plan If I Have Few Assets? →

Itemize Your Non-Physical Assets

Non-physical assets aren’t tangible objects you can hold in your hand, but they can offer tremendous value to your estate. Non-physical assets include retirement accounts, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and life insurance policies. Be sure to include the information for your other insurance policies, such as health insurance, disability insurance, and auto insurance.

For each of the non-physical assets on your list, be sure to include the corresponding account numbers. Depending on the asset, it may also make sense to include the locations of important physical documents as well as the contact information of any companies you’d like to include.

List Your Debts

Just as important as your itemized list of assets is your itemized list of debts. Your list should include open credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, and any other debts you might owe. Be sure to include the account numbers for each debt on your list, as well as the locations for any important physical documents.

List Your Memberships

Do you belong to any memberships? Some common memberships include AARP or a professional accreditation association. If so, we recommend that you create a list of all your memberships. Depending on the organization, they may have accidental life insurance benefits at no extra cost to you.

If you’d like donations to be made in your memory after you pass away, we recommend including a list of charitable organizations you support.

Create Copies of the Lists You Created

Once you’re done with the lists you’ve created in the previous steps, be sure to make copies. Send the original copy to your estate administrator. If you’re married, you should also give a copy to your spouse to store in a safety deposit box. Keep the last copy for yourself in your filing cabinet or other secure location.

Designate Beneficiaries for Accounts and Policies

How up-to-date are your retirement accounts? For many retirement accounts, you have the ability to designate beneficiaries. This helps prevent retirement accounts and other policies from entering probate. Instead, they should pass directly to your intended beneficiaries.

You should also update any insurance policies, such as those for life insurance. If you’ve recently remarried or divorced since you last updated your policies, this is especially important. Always keep track of who you list as a beneficiary so you can be sure that your estate plan matches your most current wishes.

Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning attorney has the knowledge and expertise to handle your case and ensure your final wishes are honored. While there are plenty of software options to help you write a last will and testament, an attorney will be able to identify any potential loopholes. They’ll also be able to help you avoid having your assets fall into probate.

Call Peterson Paletta Balice

Please keep in mind that this blog post does not contain an exhaustive list of estate planning tips. For a more tailored approach to your unique situation, please contact one of our estate attorneys.

Our estate lawyers in Grand Rapids and Ionia, MI, are ready to guide you through the estate planning process. To request a legal consultation, please call Peterson Paletta Balice. You may also fill out our online contact form and someone from our team will reach out to you soon.

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