Planning for your legacy is the ultimate expression of love for your family. The peace of mind that an estate plan affords is priceless and getting your plan in place is much easier than you think. Unfortunately, often when people pass away without an estate plan, the loved ones left behind are also left with a laundry list of problems that could easily have been avoided. It is never too soon to start the estate planning process. To start the discussion about your estate plan, here are some key considerations:
1. Define your goals and values: Start by reflecting on what you want your legacy to be. Consider
your values, beliefs, the impact you want to have on future generations and causes you care about. Clearly defining your goals will guide your decisions throughout the planning process.
2. Create a will: A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. Essentially, it is a set of instructions for the probate court. Consulting with an estate planning attorney is the best way to start designing your plan.
3. Existing Beneficiary Designations: An often-overlooked aspect of estate planning is taking a look at your existing beneficiary designations on your accounts. Regular review and maintenance of beneficiary designations on your various accounts, such as retirement plans, life insurance policies and bank accounts, ensure that the designated beneficiaries align with your current wishes. Again, consulting with an estate planning attorney who can review your finances can help you ensure that your plan makes
sense for you and your loved ones.
4. Consider charitable giving: If you desire to support charitable causes, consider including charitable giving in your estate plan. This can be done through direct bequests, establishing a charitable trust or foundation, or designating beneficiaries to receive assets for charitable purposes.
5. Communicate your wishes: Clearly communicate your intentions to your loved ones. Discuss your estate plan with your family members and beneficiaries, especially if you have made decisions that may be surprising or require additional explanations. This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts in the future.
6. Plan for incapacity: In addition to planning for your assets after death, consider planning for potential incapacity. Establish a durable power of attorney and a healthcare directive to designate individuals who can make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so, whether temporarily or long-term. Encourage your adult children (those 18 years of age or older) to do the same.
7. Organize your important documents: Compile and organize your important documents, including your will, financial records, insurance policies, and other relevant information. Inform your executor of their location, and keep copies in a safe place that is easily accessible.
8. Compile and organize your log in information for your financial accounts: Keep this information updated in a secure place. If you use a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password, you can keep just the log in information for that in the same location as your important documents.
9. Review and update regularly: Life circumstances change, so it's important to review and update your estate plan periodically. Major life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or acquiring substantial assets should trigger a review of your plan to ensure it remains aligned with your current wishes.
10. Seek professional guidance: Estate planning can be complex, so it's best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can provide personalized advice, ensure your plan is legally sound, and address any specific considerations relevant to your situation.
Remember, estate planning is a highly individualized process, and your plan should reflect your values, goals, and unique circumstances. Taking the time to plan for your legacy can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and leave a lasting impact on the people and causes you care about.