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It’s that time of year again! The week of October 16th marks National Estate Planning Awareness Week, a great opportunity to remind yourself and your loved ones about the importance of planning ahead for their future and being informed about elder law.
Why do I need an estate plan?
Estate planning is important throughout different stages of life. As we age, it is always wise to make sure that the necessary documents are in place and updated if needed. An estate plan can help you manage your assets in the event of death or incapacity, as well as making sure that any wishes you may have for your care and that of your family are respected.
What do I need to include in my estate plan?
There are a few essential components to consider when creating an estate plan. Here’s a basic estate planning checklist to help you get started:
- Take inventory of your assets: Make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, and personal belongings.
- Create a Will: Draft a legally binding document that specifies how you want your assets to be distributed after your death including contingency provisions. Be sure to appoint an executor to carry out your wishes.
- Designate Beneficiaries: Review and update beneficiary designations on your bank accounts, retirement plans, and life insurance policies. Ensure they align with your current wishes.
- Establish a Durable Power of Attorney: Appoint someone you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Consider both a durable power of attorney for finances and a health care proxy for medical decisions. Consider providing for successor agent(s).
- Set up a Health Care Proxy and Living Will: In a Health Care Proxy, outline your preferences for medical treatment in case you are unable to communicate your wishes. Choose a trusted person to act as your health Care Proxy. In a Living Will, state what treatment you want and do not want if you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of recovering.
- Create a Trust: Depending on your circumstances, establishing a trust may provide additional benefits such as avoiding probate, protecting assets, or managing inheritance for minor children or beneficiaries with special needs.
- Plan for Minor Children: If you have young children, designate a guardian who will care for them in the event of your death. Set up a trust or custodial account to manage their finances until they come of age.
- Review and update Beneficiary Designations regularly: Ensure your beneficiary designations are up to date and reflect your current wishes. Life events such as marriage, divorce, births, or deaths may require updates.
- Consider tax implications: Consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax consequences of your estate plan. Explore strategies to minimize estate taxes and maximize the wealth transferred to your heirs.
- Communicate your Wishes: It’s important to discuss your estate plan with your loved ones and those involved in executing it. Share the location of important documents, such as your Will, Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives, with trusted individuals.
Do I need an estate planning attorney?
An estate plan is a valuable asset that can help protect you and your loved ones, so make sure to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes are properly documented and legally binding. If you have questions or would like to make an appointment to discuss estate planning for you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at 1 (800) 680-1717.
Take part in National Estate Planning Awareness Week and be prepared for your future. With the right tools, you can ensure that your family’s needs are taken care of after you’re gone. Your peace of mind is worth it. Make sure to plan ahead now—you won’t regret it.