How to start the estate planning process

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How To Start The Estate Planning Process

Unfortunately, this year has been marked by death. It is all around us, and if one turns on the TV or opens a web browser, it dominates the news. And, especially for those of us with kids, there is a drum beat to get an estate plan done, sooner rather than later. However, it is hard to know where to start, so this blog will be that stepping stone for our Haddonfield, New Jersey, readers.

The decision

Deciding to start an estate plan is the first step. Facing one’s mortality by recognizing that it is inevitable, is in a word, scary. That is okay, and that is normal. If one is reading this blog, then they have already taken that step, so congratulations!

Planning to plan

The next step is planning to estate plan, or in other words, figure out one’s estate planning goals. This does not need to be complicated, and one does not have to have a specific roadmap. Remember, this is more about figuring out what one wants to accomplish, like reducing hassle or an easy distribution of assets. Think about the broad goals, and then put pen to paper.

Dig deeper

Now that one has their overall goals written down, it is time to get specific. Think about who should receive assets. What if they die first? Should their heirs get it or should someone else get it. Maybe there is a beloved charity that one wants to give money to, or a cause one wants to support. Who should make medical decision, should one become incapacitated? What does one want to happen to them if they become incapacitated? Should one be kept on life support indefinitely, and what about organ donation and funeral arraignments? Be specific.

Getting help

Accordingly, the final step is getting help. Call an estate planning attorney to get an initial consultation. The attorney will be the one that takes those goals that one has written down, and then figure out a way to make those goals a reality. Before the appointment, gather those goals and specifics. Then, make a notation of all of one’s assets and rough estimates of value. Do not guess though, and do a bit of homework. The more detailed information that one brings to that first appointment, the less time it will take an attorney to craft one’s individualized plan.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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