We’re in the part of the year when many individuals reflect on their habits and resolve to be even better versions of themselves. One New Year’s resolution we highly recommend: Be more attentive to estate planning. An established estate plan preserves your legacy and ensures that your loved ones are cared for—even after you die. And yet, studies show that six out of 10 adults don’t have any kind of estate plan in place whatsoever! Resolve to take estate planning seriously this year; start with these basic estate planning steps.
One of the biggest, most foundational errors you can make is not having a will and testament in place to lay out your most basic wishes. And yet, more than half of American adults don’t have these vital documents. Will and estate lawyers can work with you to ensure the proper steps are taken—but don’t delay!
A second step we recommend is assigning a Power of Attorney—someone who can step in to make key legal and financial decisions on your behalf, should you fall into a coma or become incapacitated. You might seek a lawyer who can fill this role, bringing legal expertise into the equation.
Third, ask one of your will and estate lawyers about revocable trusts. Here’s why: When you pass away, your estate may go through a process called probate. This is costly and time-consuming. Avoid probate by transferring your assets to a living revocable trust. With living revocable trusts you can distribute your assets in accordance with your instructions, all while avoiding the hassle and the expense of probate.
Fourth, make sure you have an advanced healthcare directive in place. This document, also called a living will, lays out your end-of-life preferences. It covers all your requests—such as whether you wish for a feeding tube or to be placed on a respirator, along with any other near-death preferences. To learn more, contact your attorney and ask, what is a living will?
Life insurance is an oft-neglected estate planning tool. Ensure that you have life insurance in place, and that your policy offers sufficient coverage for any children who are still dependent on you. Your attorney can advise on how much coverage is needed.
In addition to laying out the assets in your estate, it’s important to name the specific people you wish to benefit from it—including the people who may receive distributions from your trust, from an IRA, etc. Note that the people listed on your IRA beneficiary form will trump anyone else listed in your estate planning, so it’s good to keep these documents updated as your family dynamics change.
Still another important step is naming someone to serve as your healthcare proxy. This is somewhat similar to the Power of Attorney mentioned above, in the sense that you are naming someone who can make decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Here, though, instead of financial or legal decisions, we’re dealing with medical ones. This individual may be a family member or a close friend.
A final aspect of estate planning is choosing a safe yet accessible place to store your estate planning documents. Organize your paperwork, putting everything together in one place, and then tell your spouse or closest family member where that is. This way it will be easier for them to find. Important note: Don’t keep your original will in your safe-deposit box. States seal the box when someone dies until the estate has been settled, so keeping your original will in a safe deposit box can actually be counterproductive.
The reality of estate plans is that you never know when you’re going to need one—so it’s important not to delay. Make this the year you get serious about estate planning. An important first step is hiring the right expertise.
To speak with a qualified estate attorney in Silicon Valley, we invite you to contact Singh Law Firm today. We are pleased to talk with you about establishing wills and revocable trusts; assigning beneficiaries and managing trusts; and any other topics related to wills and estate living trusts. Contact Singh Law Firm now!