It’s all too tempting to delay your estate planning—to say you’ll do it tomorrow rather than tackling it today. Understandable though this impulse may be, it can also be disastrous.
Remember: Estate planning is how you allocate your assets to ensure your loved ones are taken care of, even after you die. And, it’s also how you make known your wishes about how you want loved ones to respond if you find yourself incapacitated, in a coma, in a vegetative state, etc.
You need to have your estate planning taken care of before you die, and before you wind up with a debilitating medical condition—and frankly, those things could happen at any time! None of us know what tomorrow will bring, which is why estate planning is something you should handle today.
Start by Taking Stock
That doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become an estate planning expert—though you should reach out to an estate planning lawyer sooner rather than later!
An important preliminary step you can make is to take stock of all your assets—determining what your estate actually consists of.
Simply make a complete list of your assets and who stands to benefit from those assets. Include:
- Real estate properties
- Financial accounts—retirement plans, savings accounts, annuities, 529 plans, etc.
- Other physical assets of high value—jewelry, heirlooms, etc.
Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney
Once you have your assets listed, the next step is to meet with an estate planning lawyer. Your lawyer can help you draft the documents you need to preserve those assets and to avoid probate.
These documents might include a will, a trust, or some combination of the two. (Indeed, we find that for most individuals, a will and a trust work best in tandem.)
Think About Your Health and Wellbeing
A big part of estate planning is ensuring that you pass your physical assets to the right people—but don’t forget the other component: Making your healthcare wishes explicit, especially for scenarios where you may be incapacitated.
There are a number of ways you can make your wishes clear—by establishing a living will and/or living trust, by naming a healthcare proxy, and also by appointing a Power of Attorney.
Again, your estate planning lawyer can walk you through some of the particulars.
Name the People to Carry Out Your Estate Plan
Something else you’ll want to think about: Who are the individuals who you wish to help carry out your estate plan?
You will need to name a specific individual to be the executor of your estate—ideally a trusted and responsible friend or confidant, or even your estate planning attorney. (You can name a family member, but this is not always advisable, as it can create the appearance of a conflict of interest.)
In addition, if you have kids who are still minors, you will want to name the individuals to whom you will entrust their guardianship.
And, depending on the nature of your estate plan, you may also need to name a trustee and/or a healthcare proxy.
Keep Your Estate Plan Up to Date
Finally, note that you will need to keep your estate plan current, which means revising it annually and also in response to major life events. Ongoing communication with your estate planning lawyer is crucial here.
That’s a role that we take seriously here at Singh Law Firm. We want to be your trusted allies, from the inception of your estate plan to its ongoing maintenance. Don’t put it on hold any longer! Reach out to us to begin the estate planning process today!