No one lives forever, but we hope we leave behind good memories, a strong legacy, and an estate that will help those who survive us. However, proper steps must be taken in order to ensure that your estate plan is as useful to your beneficiaries as you intend it to be.

Without taking the right steps, your estate will end up costing your beneficiaries financially in probate courts. Poorly considered estate planning can also make the probate process take longer and potentially lead to conflict.

Update Your Will and Beneficiaries

Our lives and the people who populate them are constantly changing. We may have new grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or children of our own. Our relationships could have soured here and strengthened elsewhere. Or maybe our property or personal finances radically change.

Whatever changes in your life, it is important to make sure that your will reflects those changes. If you die without a will, or with a will that is maybe years out of date, your beneficiaries will not recover what you might have intended. There could be fights over your estate while your property goes through probate.

Transfer Property Into a Trust

Those who have considerable assets and finances may want to consider putting some property into a living trust in order to avoid estate taxes and probate. When property is put into the trust, the ownership of that property is shifted to the beneficiaries of the trust.

Additionally, your named loved ones and heirs can potentially benefit from the assets in the trust before your death as well.

Negotiate the Executor’s Fee While Drafting Your Will

When you are gone, the executor of your estate will be bound to do right by your best interests as written into the will. This will include transferring assets to beneficiaries named in the will and paying off any of the estate’s outstanding debts.

Consider agreeing on their fee at the time of drafting your will.

Sell Your Out-of-State Property

Consider selling any real estate you may own in other states. Out-of-state real property may require a second ancillary probate case proceeding in the other state(s).

A second probate case will mean additional filing fees and possibly the need for additional executors.

Cash-In Your Physical Bonds and Stocks

If you have any stock certificates lying around, it is smart to turn them in now, before you’re gone. Physical stocks and bonds can be easily lost, misplaced, or even stolen.

Take these physical bonds and stock certificates to a bank and have them transferred into electronic funds for your account.