Tips for Proactive Estate Planning
In 2008, the United States House of Representatives designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week, with the goal of helping the public understand the concept of estate planning how it impacts a person’s financial wellness.
Estate planning is often equated with simply “making a will” and/or not being “necessary” until someone is “close to death”. While it is true that wills and other estate-planning documents help govern what happens to one’s property at the time of death, a complete “estate plan” will assist in the management of your property during your life. Such management is especially important for those people with family-owned businesses. Additionally, documents such as health care proxies and powers of attorney will be used during a person’s life to help ensure that one’s financial and health care wishes are respected. The best time to engage in such planning is when the documents are “not necessary” (i.e., when a person is healthy and competent to make informed decisions concerning their finances and health).
Benefits of being proactive in your estate and financial planning include the following:
- You make the decisions concerning the management of your assets during life and after death. If one dies without a plan in place, the laws of your state of domicile will determine who will receive your property. Additionally, such property will likely be distributed “outright and free of trust” – not the best way for a minor child or a person collecting “needs based” government benefits to receive an inheritance. Also, by being praoactive in your approach, your plan can be designed to avoid Probate which helps reduce the amount of time and financial costs associated with your estate administration
- You determine who will act as your health care agent and attorney-in-fact for financial matters during your life. Otherwise, if a person becomes unable to make health care or financial decisions, the only option available is to have a guardian appointed for such person. Guardianship proceedings are often lengthy, costly and the person appointed guardian may not be the person you want in that position.
- You make the decision as to who will act as executor of your estate, trustee of any trust you create and guardians of any minor children. Without documents in place, the laws of your state of domicile will determine who will serve in these capacities.
- Tax laws are always changing. Being proactive allows a person to revise their plans in light of such changes and can result in more of your assets passing to your beneficiaries.
- Being proactive will allow you to change your plan as circumstances in your life change. Your plan should evolve as your life evolves.
- Engaging in estate planning results in peace of mind – for you and your family.
If you have questions or would like to discuss estate planning or wealth management, or review your existing documents, please contact your regular AT lawyer or our dedicated team of skilled trust, estate planning and tax lawyers.