Estate Planning Attorney Asks, “Are You Ready to Get Your Affairs in Order?”
Death or incapacitation can creep up on anyone, especially when they least expect it. The burden of handling an estate or financial affairs that can fall on your family may be extremely heavy, even more so if you didn’t leave them in a situation where they are thoroughly prepared. So, if you’re ready to get your affairs in order, here are a few quick suggestions to follow that will help make the process easier for everyone involved:
Create a clear and current Estate Plan
Creating an estate plan or updating your old estate plan is the most important thing you can do to get your affairs in order. An estate plan (Will or Trust and Powers of Attorney) gives you the proper protections and documents in case you become incapacitated, such as the General Power of Attorney, Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney and HIPAA, or if you pass away, such as a Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, and Memorial Instructions.
Name Your Beneficiaries
Unless you have a trust, all of your financial accounts and policies should have beneficiaries named on them. However, keep in mind that a court may have to get involved if your beneficiaries are underage. A guardian must be named for all underage beneficiaries to receive their assets, as the guardian must be in charge of the accounts. If you don’t name any beneficiaries, or if your beneficiaries predecease you, without a contingent beneficiary, then those accounts will have to go into your probate estate. Your loved ones will have to prepare for a long, expensive process (depending on the state) before the estate is settled.
Review Your Financial Accounts
Conduct reviews of all of your accounts to make sure they are titled correctly, the right beneficiaries are named, and there are no issues with any of your accounts or policies. You can work with an experienced estate and elder law attorney to schedule how often your accounts should be reviewed. In our office we review them yearly through our Maintenance program.
Protect Your Financial Assets
There are many strategies you can use to protect your assets for you loved ones and yourself in the event of a lawsuit, creditor, divorce, or if you need to enter a nursing home. Annuity planning, irrevocable trusts, and other forms of asset protection planning are available, and you can discuss these with an experienced estate planning/elder law attorney.
Leave Your Information Where It Can Be Found
It’s critical that your loved ones can find and access your important documents if you pass away or become incapacitated. This sounds simple and obvious, but you might be surprised how many calls we get in our office from families trying to track down documents and information! This will allow your designated agent/trustee to manage your finances and/or settle your trust/estate, if needed. You may also want to leave a list of all your important passwords and online accounts as well as other critical personal information.
If you would like to get more information about estate planning, or if you’d like to discuss your existing estate plan and how it matches up with your current situation, please contact us at 757 645-3176 or 866-603-5976 to set up a consultation.