Things to con­sider when es­tate plan­ning

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You may worry about what will hap­pen to your house and prop­erty when you’re no longer will­ing or able to care for it -- par­tic­u­larly if you own prop­erty that has spe­cial mean­ing to you, such as a fam­ily home or wood­lands. With so many op­tions on the ta­ble, it’s im­por­tant to re­search the facts, make im­por­tant de­ci­sions and get pa­per­work started.

When it comes to es­tate plan­ning, here are some things to con­sider:

Your Le­gacy

Ask your­self, “is my prop­erty an as­set or an heir­loom?” If it’s not im­por­tant for you to keep your land in the fam­ily, you must de­ter­mine whether you want to sell it or give it away to char­ity. Both op­tions have im­por­tant fi­nan­cial and tax ben­e­fits and draw­backs. Ask an es­tate plan­ner or tax ad­vi­sor about them.

Find an Es­tate Plan­ner

Start by ask­ing peo­ple you trust for rec­om­men­da­tions. Once you have a list of names, con­duct in­for­mal in­ter­views. Ask ques­tions that can help en­sure that a plan­ner’s in­ter­ests and skills fit your needs be­fore you com­mit to work­ing to­gether.

“Look for some­one with sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence par­tic­u­larly with land as­sets and fam­i­lies, who has up-to-date knowl­edge of the field and rel­e­vant laws, and pos­sesses ex­per­tise in wood­land or has a forestry back­ground,” says Caro­line Kue­bler, Out­reach Man­ager of the Amer­i­can Tree Farm Sys­tem, a net­work of 82,000 fam­ily for­est own­ers sus­tain­ably man­ag­ing 24 mil­lion acres of wood­lands.

Your Fam­ily

Your plan for your prop­erty’s fu­ture won’t work if your fam­ily can’t or isn’t will­ing to put it into ac­tion. Kue­bler, an ex­pert on fam­ily for­est out­reach, rec­om­mends get­ting them in­volved if you plan to pass your land on to them.

“If your fam­ily lacks a con­nec­tion to your land, it can lead to con­flict when plan­ning for the fu­ture,” says Kue­bler. “Talk to

your fam­ily about your ex­pe­ri­ences on your land. Go on a hike. The more you camp, fish, hunt, work and play on the prop­erty to­gether, the more they’ll ap­pre­ci­ate and value it.”

Take ad­van­tage of free on­line tools that can help your fam­ily man­age your land and plan for its fu­ture. For ex­am­ple, My Land Plan`s map­ping tool can be used to mark out fea­tures on your land, in­clud­ing ar­eas that are spe­cial to you and your fam­ily. The site also fea­tures a jour­nal, which can be used to cap­ture fam­ily mem­o­ries, up­load pho­tos,

STATE­POINT PHOTO

When it comes to es­tate plan­ning with so many ot­pi­ons on the ta­ble, it’s im­por­tant to re­search the facts, make im­por­tant de­ci­sions and get pa­per­work started.

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