I know. It’s overwhelming. One of the most consistent stories I hear from both clients and folks I speak with informally about estate planning goes something like, “I know I should do it, but I don’t know where to begin….”
First, let’s excise the word “should” from your vocabulary when discussing estate planning. We have no use for that nonsense, shaming language. If you don’t have an estate plan, you are part of a very large club – more than half of our fellow Americans don’t have adequate estate plans.
What you haven’t done is not important. Here are ten reasons that might help spur you into action!
1. Don’t fall for the morbid stuff: estate planning is about living.
You know what really sucks? Thinking incessantly about death. So stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen both ends of this story. First, “Man, thinking about this stuff sounds like a drag.” Making sure that you have all of the necessary protections in place to allow you to live your life without worrying about what happens if you get sick or temporarily incapacitated is a drag? I promise you that with virtually all of my clients, the second half of the story is, “I feel so relieved all of this is in place and I don’t have this hanging over me….”
2. You’ll make life so much easier for your loved ones.
Having a will- or trust-based estate plan in place will make an already difficult time far less painful. That’s it: it is a gift of pure compassion and love to your loved ones.
3. Planning provides you control.
Here’s a dirty little secret: you already have an estate plan. I promise you that you’re not going to like what the state has in store for your estate and loved ones, though. Every state has a standard way to process estates; unless you want your heirs to pay more in taxes and go through the frustration of probate without a will, you’ll want to have an estate plan in place. Your plan will allow you to name the people who will take care of distributing assets and closing your estate, as well as empower you to decide who gets your assets and property (and who does not).
4. Choose who will care for your minor children.
The header says it all: if you have minor children, establishing who will serve as their guardian in the instance when both parents pass is one of the most important functions of your estate plan. You do not want a judge making that call for you.
5. Establish trusts for your minor children.
Establishing a pot trust or individual trusts for your children will ensure that the property and assets you leave them will be properly managed for their benefit without costly court-administered guardianships.
6. Minimize family disputes.
Families are…complicated. If you pass without an estate plan, your family will be left to guess what your final wishes were. What are the chances your family will be in accord as to what those wishes were? Experience tells me – no matter how tight or reasonable the family – there will be disagreements that can create fissures and fights, which can last a lifetime. Make your wishes known and head off the unnecessary friction that follows from competitive mindreading.
7. Plan for special needs.
If you have an heir with special needs, special planning is critical to ensure your special needs heir’s inheritance is protected. If you have an heir who receives government benefits for his or her special needs, a lump-sum inheritance can do more harm than good as the cash or asset influx could disqualify him or her from benefits and exhaust the inheritance rapidly. Let’s set up a special needs trust to care for your special needs loved one.
8. Protect your family business.
The life of a family-owned business is intrinsically tied to the lives of the family members. Moving a family-owned business to the next generation is a process that requires intentional business succession planning in conjunction with estate planning.
9. Leave a legacy with charitable donations.
If you would like to leave a portion of your estate to a charity or non-profit organization, you can designate certain assets to go to specific organizations and can often do so in a way that is tax beneficial.
10. Protect assets from creditors.
If you pass away with certain debts, creditors will likely make a claim against your estate – potentially eating away at the assets that will pass to your heirs. Through a variety of asset protection trusts, you may be able to protect your estate so that it benefits those whom you care most about.
If you’d like to talk about your estate planning needs, please do not hesitate to schedule your Estate Planning Strategy Session with me. I’m excited to help you take this next step!