Preparing for the unknown future can seem daunting, however a good estate plan can help ease your mind. You may not know exactly what will happen down the road, but YOU CAN CONTROL who manages your affairs if you are temporarily incapacitated, and YOU CAN ENSURE your final wishes are carried out after you pass. The following list will help you begin your planning:
- DO get help from an estate planning attorney whose training and experience can ensure that you minimize tax implications and simplify the process of settling your estate. Don’t assume you can plan your estate by yourself, and don’t attempt to navigate through online or software programs to create your documents.
- DO include estate planning as part of your long term budget. There are upfront costs for establishing your estate plan; however it is an investment in the future well-being of your family, and one which will result in a far greater cash savings over the long term. Don’t put off your estate planning needs because of finances.
- DO consult your attorney before making changes to your estate plan. Changes in one area of your estate plan could impact other provisions you have made, triggering legal or tax implications you never intended.
- DO talk with your children about your wishes, and how you would like for them to handle matters upon your death. Money and sentimental items can cause a rift between even the most agreeable siblings, and they will be especially vulnerable as they deal with the emotional impact of your passing.
- DO review your estate plan, with your attorney, on a regular basis. Your estate plan is NOT set in stone. Estate planning documents regularly need to be revised, often due to a change in marital status, birth or death of a family member, or a significant change in the value of your estate. Beneficiary designations should be periodically reviewed to ensure they are up to date.
- DO notify your family members, friends or other beneficiaries of your estate plan. Make sure your personal representative and successor trustee have access to your estate planning documents.
- DO talk with your spouse about his or her estate plan. Although many spouses appoint each other to handle affairs, it is possible that you and your spouse may become incapacitated at the same time. A proper estate plan appoints alternate representatives to handle your affairs if both you and your spouse are unable to do so.
- DO consider carefully who you would like to handle financial and health decisions for you in case of your incapacity. Take time to talk with your representatives about your wishes so that they are able to make informed decisions for you when acting as your agents.
- DO name alternate agents, personal representatives or successor trustees. You may name a family member to fill one of these roles, and forget to revise the document if that person dies or becomes incapacitated. By adding alternates, you ensure there is no question regarding who has the authority to act on your or the estate’s behalf.