Many people seem to have difficulty getting started with an estate plan. However, it really doesn’t take much to do the planning necessary to help family members who survive you, according to the Lebanon Democrat’s article “End-of-life planning beneficial no matter your age.”
The planning you do will also help your family avoid the nasty disagreements that so often happen when no one has been told what is going to occur after a parent dies. It will help your loved ones who may not know what you would have wanted after you pass: a funeral, a big memorial service, graveside services only or even cremation.
If you die without a will, which is known as dying “intestate,” all of your assets, from bank accounts to your favorite table saw could be awarded to someone, based on the judgment of a court-appointed administrator. This person won’t know that you had a nephew to whom you’d promised your woodworking tools and that would include the table saw.
Start by meeting with an estate planning attorney in your community. The laws that govern estate planning are based on your state’s law, so an attorney from another state may not be familiar with the big or small differences in your state versus another state. The same goes for online wills: unless they are reviewed by an attorney in your state, you won’t know if they are valid. Your family will find out after you have passed and they can’t make changes. That’s probably not how you want to be remembered.
If there’s a senior citizen in the family, ask them if they have prepared a will. It’s best to do this while they are still competent. You never know what tomorrow might bring–and that holds true for people of all ages. Many people become incapacitated unexpectedly, at all ages and stages of life. Prior planning prevents a bad situation from becoming much worse.
Here’s what your estate planning attorney will speak with you about:
Who do you want to be in charge of your estate? It should be someone whom you trust without reservation. That person will become your executor when you die.
Whom do you want to receive certain possessions? We tend to think about who will inherit a house or a car, but many families argue over sentimental possessions, like jewelry or art. Epic battles have occurred over items with little monetary value.
Your estate planning attorney will ensure that you also have a Health Care Proxy, since you’ll need this if you have to go to the hospital or to a long-term care facility and are not able to speak for yourself. You also will need at Power of Attorney so that, if you are unable to handle your financial affairs, a trusted family member or friend can do so for you.
Update your will as time goes on. Families grow and shrink, and your will needs to reflect your changing life. What if the person you named as executor dies, or moves far away? You’ll want to make sure there are people who can carry out your wishes after you are gone.
Don’t forget to tell your executors that they have been named and make sure they are willing and able to act as you intend. If you have an argumentative family, will your executor be able to stand up to them? Personality is as important as understanding legal and financial issues.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your family’s particular circumstances.
Reference: The Lebanon Democrat (Jan. 18, 2019) “End-of-life planning beneficial no matter your age”