Creating a personalized estate plan is the most important thing you can do to make sure that your legacy, property, and health care wishes are honored should you become incapacitated or pass away. Some might assume that you have to be wealthy, or have a sizable “estate,” to benefit from such planning, but in truth everyone can. The beginning of a new year may be the best time to craft a comprehensive plan, or update an existing one, with your estate planning attorney.
Last wills and testaments and different types of trusts are the most commonly conceived estate planning items. Other estate documents, however, such as the durable power of attorney can allow family members or other trusted confidants to access your assets in the event that you are unable to handle your own affairs.
You may be confused about what estate planning is, or how it may help you and your loved ones. There is never a wrong time to ask these questions! We share with our family, clients, advisors, and local community, the following documents to consider including in their estate plan:
- Last will and testament
- Trust agreement(s)
- Durable power of attorney
- Healthcare advance directives
- Living will
Once created, keeping your estate plan up-to-date is critical. There are a multitude of reasons to update an existing plan, such as a death in the family, the birth of a grandchild, or if you or someone named in your estate was married or divorced. Another reason is if the person who created the estate plan simply changes his or her mind. Any number of outside factors, such as changing tax laws or market fluctuations, could also prompt an update.
Some changes can be accommodated by state laws. For example, if you fail to expressly include a new spouse then he or she can probably still inherit a portion of your estate. On the other hand, failing to actively adapt your plan for significant changes can lead to paying higher taxes, thus diminishing the value of your estate, and bequeathing property to people you may not intend to. It can also create confusion among your grieving relatives after you’re gone, which could lead to probate delays, or even litigation between family members.
What would happen if you fail to regularly update your plan? In short, it creates uncertainty about the future of your property and wishes as they were initially defined. It also can cause unnecessary heartache and stress for family members during an already difficult time. This is just one of the many reasons we have created our client maintenance plan. We would love to talk you about how it can benefit you and your family. Do not wait to contact our office about estate planning in the New Year!