October is Estate Planning Awareness Month.
If you’re like most people, you’ll do just about anything to protect your loved ones. Yet many of us fail to consider or prepare for the inevitability of death, which can result in heartache, frustration, and unnecessary expense for those you care about. By putting an estate plan in place, you help ensure that your loved ones will be cared for and your assets will pass quickly to your heirs. Estate planning is something that everyone should do, regardless of age, marital status, or whether you’re a parent or not.
Surprisingly, according to a 2022 survey by Caring.com, only 33% of Americans have a will or living trust in place! Most cite procrastination as the main reason, but others worry they have too few assets or that the process of creating an estate plan is too complicated. The reality is, regardless of your asset level you should have a plan in place, and the process of creating an estate plan is easier than ever! First, review the six essential items described below. Then, if you already have an estate plan, confirm that these items are included in it. If you don’t yet have a plan, this list can help you get started.
A Will: A will determines where assets will go if they don’t have a listed beneficiary. This might include your home (if paid off), cars, collections, and even household items. In addition, bank and brokerage accounts with no beneficiary listed should be in your will and estate plan.
A Trust Document: A Living Trust allows you to pass assets to heirs without going through probate and allows someone else to handle your financial affairs if you’re unable. It names not only who the trust benefits but also the trustee (the person who manages things when you cannot). A Trust Document is a crucial element in estate planning.
An Executor of Your Estate: Commonly, this is often a relative or friend, but a professional manager may need to be considered in complex cases where there are substantial assets. Being an executor can often be time-consuming and stressful. You might consider appointing a professional manager even if your estate is simple (and thus remove that burden from loved ones).
A Guardian for Your Under-Aged Children: If you have a young family, your estate plan should include who you would like to care for your children if both parents are deceased. Without this directive, the state decides who will be the guardian of your children (meaning, they could be entrusted to someone you wouldn’t otherwise prefer). If a child has special needs, planning for the child’s care now and throughout their adulthood must be considered.
Medical Power of Attorney: Commonly, spouses list each other as medical power of attorney, but you have the full authority to list anyone you choose. A Medical Power of Attorney makes medical decisions for you when you're incapacitated or unable to do so for yourself.
Financial Power of Attorney: This individual or individuals have the authority to pay your bills and manage your finances if you are unable to do so. Choosing a Financial Power of Attorney is critical if you require extended medical or nursing care -- you want to ensure your bills are kept current so you can remain in the care facility. Without having a Financial Power of Attorney named, your assets are seized and liquidated by the state to pay your bills, even if you have the means to pay.
Although these are the main items to include in an estate plan, your unique circumstances may require you to have additional documents. Our financial team is happy to work with your legal and tax professionals to help ensure your directives are carried out the way you intend. Let us help you check this truly important task off your “to do” list. Just give us a call if you have questions about estate planning or want to schedule a meeting.
Courtesy of Fresh Finance.