For many of us, life gets in the way of our estate planning goals. Between work, family, and social obligations, there never seems to be enough time to get around to creating or updating our estate plans.
But what happens if we wait too long? Unfortunately, there are a number of risks associated with putting off estate planning, including lost opportunities, decreased eligibility for government benefits, and increased taxes and legal fees.
In this post, we'll discuss some tips for playing catch-up on your estate planning goals.
1. Define Your Estate Planning Goals
Estate planning is not a one-time event. Like most things in life, estate planning is an ongoing process. As your life changes, so too should your estate plan. The goal is to have a plan that accurately reflects your current wishes and situation.
Take some time to reflect on your current situation and define your estate planning goals. Do you need to update your will? Create a trust? Name a guardian for your children? The more specific your goals, the easier it will be to create a plan that meets your needs.
2. Understand the Basics of Estate Planning
When it comes to getting your estate planning in order, there's a lot to think about. It can feel overwhelming, but it's important to understand the basics before you can start creating a plan that's right for you.
Estate planning is all about ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. In order to do this, you'll need to create a will and designate an executor. You'll also need to decide who will inherit your assets and establish a power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.
If you have children, you'll also want to create a guardianship plan naming someone who will care for your children if something happens to you. And last but not least, be sure to review your insurance policies and update them as needed to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of financially after you're gone.
3. Get Organized and Gather Your Documents
The first step to getting your estate planning on track is to get yourself organized. This means gathering all of your important documents and putting them in one place. This can include anything from your birth certificate and social security card to your mortgage and car titles.
If you're not sure what documents you need, take a look at the estate planning document checklist below for a more comprehensive list. Having all of your documents in one place makes the estate planning process much easier and helps ensure that nothing is missed.
Once you have all of your documents gathered, the next step is to sit down and create or update your estate plan. This can be a daunting task, but having a plan in place is crucial for ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of when you're no longer able to do so yourself. The documents you need to have include:
❖ Birth certificate
❖ Social security card
❖ Mortgage papers
❖ Car titles
❖ Life insurance policies
❖ Wills and trusts
❖ Healthcare proxies
❖ Durable power of attorneys
4. Choose the Right Executor for Your Estate
One of the most important decisions you'll make when estate planning is who will be your executor. This person will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out after you die, so it's important to choose someone you trust and who has the knowledge and experience to handle such a responsibility.
If you don't have someone in mind, or if you want to explore your options, there are a few things to consider. First, think about whether you want someone who is familiar with your family and friends or if you want someone who is experienced in estate planning and tax law.
Second, think about how much time and energy this person will be able to commit. Your executor will likely have a lot of responsibility in the months and years following your death, so make sure they're willing and able to take on the task.
Finally, consider how important financial stability is to you. An executor who is also the beneficiary of your estate may not be the best choice if you're looking for someone who is unbiased and can handle the responsibility objectively.
5. Review Your Estate Plan Regularly
Although estate planning is not a one-time event, it's a process that should be revisited on a regular basis. Your life circumstances – and the law – can change quickly, so it's important to take the time to review your plan and make any necessary updates.
This is especially important if you have recently undergone a life-changing event, such as getting married, having children, or moving to a new state. Even if there haven't been any major changes in your life, it's still a good idea to review your plan every few years to ensure that it still reflects your current wishes and needs.
If you're unsure whether or not it's time for a review, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for guidance. We're always here to help!
If you're behind on your estate planning goals, don't worry – the Law Offices of James C. Shields can help you catch up. We can help you create or update your will, trust, power of attorney, and more, so that your wishes will be carried out according to your latest wishes. Contact us today to learn more.