By many estimates, only about half of Americans have an Estate plan, and only about 30% of you have up to date estate plans to reflect your current family needs and financial goals. These statistics have improved some as a result of the global pandemic, but only slightly. That is why this week (October 18-24, 2021) has been designated as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. This campaign is an effort to highlight the ways that an estate plan can be essential to your financial wellbeing.
So what is an Estate Plan, anyway? It is a document, and often a series of documents that what you want your family should do if you become incapacitated or if you die. Often, this will include a power of attorney, that gives authority to someone you trust to act if you are unable to look after your medical or financial decisions because of an injury or an illness. An Estate Plan will also include a Will and maybe a Trust that outline how you would like your money or assets to be managed and distributed when you’re gone. It can also include a Living Will, or other documents that spell out your wishes concerning life-support or other end of life care.
Why don’t more people have an Estate Plan? In part, because it can be an uncomfortable thing to think about or talk about. We don’t like to imagine ourselves or our loved ones facing a tragic accident or life-threatening illness. Many times, we are too busy living to want to think about dying. We have our careers, our dreams, our families, and our retirement to plan for. We have too much living to do to “waste time” planning for our deaths.
Why do I need an Estate Plan anyway? It’s because of those same things that make life worth living! An Estate Plan is a way of caring for your loved ones. It can also be a way to provide for charities and good causes that are important to you. When you have an up-to-date Estate Plan in place, you can ensure that the goals you have made in your life continue when you are gone. You can also rest easy at night, knowing that whatever the future holds, your loved ones will be cared for.
So what do I need to do in order to have an Estate Plan? You first need to get a good list together of all of your assets and debts, and you need to think about your goals. Do you have a young family? You should think about how you’d want your savings and assets to be managed for your spouse or your children. Are you retiring? Now is a great time to start thinking about the legacy you are leaving behind for your spouse and your children. Have you been blessed with more wealth than your family will need? You might consider if you want to leave a charitable legacy. Do you have a health concern or a life-threatening condition? It might be a good time to update your Estate Plan to address long term care needs. Whatever your goals might be, your next step should be to talk with a lawyer who can help you create an Estate Plan that will meet those goals.
If you are thinking about your Estate Plan, this week is a great time to get started. I would love to talk with you about the ways that we can help. Just give us a call and set up a time to talk.