Americans are notoriously skittish about handling end-of-life financial needs, which is understandable given the taboo nature of dealing with one's own eventual demise.
The data bear that anxiety out. A 2015 study from Everplans reveals that 69% of Americans say they have seriously considered writing a will, yet only 34% follow through on that process. Another 95% say they don't plan well for the handling of their estates due to lack of knowledge and lack of good financial tools.
Yet only a cursory look at the estate planning landscape reveals that "lack of information" excuse is just that - an excuse. The truth is, there are plenty of options for people looking to create an estate plan properly. By and large, there is no shortage of attorneys, financial planners and accountants who specialize in estate planning - a quick internet search will find you one, either live and in the flesh or via a digital estate planning platform (sites like Avvo.com and EstatePlannng.com are a great place to start - both have "find an estate planner" tools.)
When you do find a good financial or estate planner, the ground you cover becomes paramount. There are several "must have" estate planning components you'll need, along with a few creative components that really complement a good estate planning campaign.
Start with these components - all recommended by estate planning specialists:
Know who will take care of your estate - The best idea of estate planning is to first accept that you will need to do this type of planning, its necessity and its urgency, notes Chris Cooper, founder of Chris Cooper & Company, a financial services firm in San Diego. First, Cooper says, decide who you can trust to take care of you and your estate, and it may not be your spouse or your children. "Not everyone's kids are best suited for this task," he says. Next, select a well-recommended estate planning attorney, and not a general practice type, as estate planning is a specialist's game. "For example, you select a surgeon on how many times he or she has performed an operation, and the same holds with attorneys," Cooper adds. Also, don't appoint co-trustees. "That just guarantees conflict," he says.