Two out of every five people over 45 years old don’t have a prepared will. Many of them have not thought about estate planning. It doesn’t take that much to do the planning necessary to help family members who survive you, according to the Lebanon Democrat’s article “End-of-life planning beneficial no matter your age.”
The planning you do will also help your family avoid the nasty disagreements that so often happen, when no one has been told what is going to occur after a parent dies. It will help your loved ones who may not know what you would have wanted after you pass: a funeral, a big memorial service, graveside services only or even cremation.
If you die without a will, which is known as dying “intestate,” all of your assets, from bank accounts to your favorite table saw could be awarded to someone, based on the judgment of a court-appointed administrator. This person won’t know that you had a nephew who you’d promised your woodworking tools and that would include the table saw.
Start by meeting with an estate planning attorney in your community. The laws that govern estate planning are based on your state’s law, so an attorney from another state may not be familiar with the big or small differences in your state versus another state. The same goes for online wills: unless they are reviewed by an attorney in your state, you won’t know if they are valid. Your family will find out, after you have passed, and they can’t make changes. That’s probably not how you want to be remembered.
If there’s a senior citizen in the family, ask them if they have prepared any estate planning documents. It’s best to do this, while they are still competent. You never know what tomorrow might bring–and that holds true for people of all ages. Many people become incapacitated unexpectedly, at all ages and stages of life. Prior planning prevents a bad situation from becoming much worse.
Here’s what your estate planning attorney will speak with you about:
Who do you want to be in charge of your estate? It should be someone you trust without reservation. That person will become your executor or trustee, when you die.
Who do you want to receive certain possessions? We tend to think about who will inherit a house or a car, but many families argue over sentimental possessions, like jewelry or art. Epic battles have occurred over items with little monetary value.
Your estate planning attorney will ensure that you also have an advance health care directive (also known as a living will), since you’ll need this, if you have to go to the hospital or long-term care facility and are not able to speak up for yourself.
Update your estate plan as time goes on. Families grow and shrink, and your estate plan needs to reflect your changing life. What if the person you named as executor or trustee dies, or moves far away? You’ll want to make sure there are people who can carry out the responsibilities you want.
Don’t forget to tell your executors/trustees that they have been named and make sure they are up for the tasks. If you have an argumentative family, will your executor/trustee be able to stand up to them? Personality is as important as understanding legal and financial issues.
Your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through any rough spots, or issues you might be struggling with. It is better for you and the ones you love to have an estate plan, regardless of your age or health. Life changes come quickly, and it’s best to be prepared.
Reference: The Lebanon Democrat (Jan. 18, 2019) “End-of-life planning beneficial no matter your age”