Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning

young couple sitting with attorney holding paperwork and smiling

When it’s time to start estate planning, many people don’t know where to begin. This confusion may be part of the reason that over half of Americans do not have a valid will in place. We’ve put together a list of things you should and should not do when estate planning to help you get started. Remember that this list of tips is non-exhaustive; the best thing you can do for personal advice is to speak with a member of our team at DebnamRust, P.C..

Things To Do


Before you start the estate planning process, do some initial research. While you will undoubtedly have questions along the way, having a base knowledge will help you better understand the entire process. Throughout your research, you can begin thinking about how you would like to create your estate plan and what will best fit your and your family’s needs.

Work With An Attorney

Many people feel tempted to write an estate plan on their own. In fact, there are even online will services that make it possible to do so from your own home. While this seems great in theory, it’s not so great in practice. Working with an attorney is the best way to ensure your will is valid and that you can personalize it the way you want.

If at the time of your passing a judge finds that your will is not valid, it cannot be used to determine how your assets are distributed. Instead, your estate will be handled according to intestacy laws. For more information on what happens if you die without a valid will, click here.

Take Inventory Of Your Assets

You will need to have a full understanding of all of the assets you possess. This will help you easily choose how you’d like to distribute them.
Important assets to note include:

  • Homes
  • Land
  • Cars
  • Boats
  • Valuables

To understand the money you have available, take inventory of:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stock portfolios
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement money
  • Pensions
  • Fund from any businesses you own
  • Debt

Consider Your Loved Ones’ Needs

Once you have taken stock of all of your assets, you can begin thinking about how you would like to distribute them, as well as other arrangements you’d like to make. Consider the needs of your spouse, children, and friends to figure out what each person should receive.

Something unique for people who have minor children is the need to name a guardian. In case you and your spouse pass away, you can delegate someone legal guardianship of your children

Factors to consider when naming a guardian include:

  • The potential guardian’s personal values;
  • Religious background;
  • Financial situation;
  • Age;
  • Location

Typically, parents aim to choose a guardian who will be able to keep the children’s lives as relatively normal as possible.

Things Not To Do

Don’t List Just One Beneficiary

You should always have more than one beneficiary listed in your will. In case one of your beneficiaries passes away, there will be other beneficiaries who can inherit your estate.

Don’t Forget To Update Your Estate Plan

Your estate plan will need to change as your life does. If you gain new assets or add new family members, you will want to ensure that your will is up to date to account for that.

Don’t Make Changes Without Consulting Your Attorney

You will want to speak with your lawyer about any changes regarding your estate plan. Not only can they help ensure that the changes are made accurately, but they can also provide insight about any consequences of the changes. For example, if a change you want to make would end up increasing estate taxes or other costs.

Dallas Estate Planning Team

An estate plan is not just for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of your loved ones. If you are considering creating an estate plan, we encourage you to start with us at DebnamRust, P.C.. We will walk you through each step of the process to make sure you are informed and comfortable. Call us today at (214) 758-8681 to set up a consultation.