By: Stuart Williams | Estate Planning Lawyer

If you do not already have an estate plan and you're here to learn what it would mean to have one, you're in the right place. Think of your estate plan as a roadmap your family will be able to turn to, to take care of you, your spouse, and your children if a real crisis like your death or incapacity were to occur.

When I put an estate plan together for a client, the perspective I have when drafting, is that it should take care of everything you own and everyone you love (including yourself), in all of the best ways. Ultimately, the plan should also preserve the love and happiness you've tried so hard to cultivate in your children since they were born.

In order to preserve the "love" it is desirable to have your family avoid the expensive and time-consuming court process known as "probate," because it can be very expensive, stressful, and test relationships.

For your plan to "work," it will need to be very much personalized to your family. The health, age, and marital history of everyone in your family (among other factors) should be evaluated. The types of assets you own, character of your retirement savings, and whether you’d like to maximize or protect a child’s inheritance are also factors to consider.

For example, are there any disabled beneficiaries who could be disadvantaged by receiving an outright inheritance from you? Is there a marriage that your parental instincts say will not last? Are there other "adult" problems that one of your children are already having? Or, if you died tomorrow, are your children simply too young to immediately receive ALL of what you have for them to inherit?

When these factors are examined for your personal legal planning, we are able to identify unique concerns to avoid, and opportunities to exploit for your family's benefit.

When your concerns and opportunities are not addressed — the value of what loved ones will inherit can be significantly less, and the transitional period can be far more stressful and time consuming for everyone.

Do not procrastinate and let your opportunity to plan, slip away. It is not just about the money and "who gets what." Everything you've worked so hard for, to raise children that will love and support each other's endeavors some day when you are gone, is also in jeopardy if your planning is not done right.

Is it time to put a roadmap in place for your family?