Estate plans are more about reducing the stress on your heirs and ensuring that the assets you leave behind are distributed as you wish than they are about money. Instead of focusing on a list of bank and investment accounts, trying thinking about those you love, and what you wish to leave to them after you are gone. That is the real heart of estate planning.
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press recently published an article, titled “Your money: Wealthy or not, you need an estate plan,” which emphasized that everybody is in need of an estate plan and provides a few tips to consider:
1. There’s More to Estate Planning than Just a Will. The article reminds us that a will isn’t all that is needed to make your wishes known to your family and friends. Rather, it’s part of a thorough and well-thought-out estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can help you with other pieces, such as powers of attorney, health care directives, life insurance policy beneficiary designations, and trusts. An estate planning attorney is key to making sure you have everything covered, up-to-date, and in compliance with the law.
2. Take Time to Consider a Personal Representative. If you pass away without naming a personal representative or an executor, the court will appoint an individual tasked with distributing your assets. But if you name one, you can discuss this responsibility with him or her now, so that you answer all of his or her questions and you are confident that he or she can do the job.
3. Create a Will or Let a Judge Give Away Your Estate. Remember that without a will, the assets in your estate will distributed by a probate judge according to the state probate process, which is not only expensive, but takes months and sometimes years to complete. There may be avoidable taxes that you could have dealt with in a will, as well as the opportunity to choose who gets what.
4. Don’t Let Your Estate Plan Grow Moss! The article advises you to review your estate plan on a regular basis, like every couple of years. Also, talk with your estate planning attorney if you experience some sort of major life event, such as the birth of a child or grandchild, a death in the family or of one of your heirs, marriage or divorce, or a move to a different state.
A qualified estate planning attorney will have the experience to assist you with other strategies to lower your tax liability and the expenses of probate. This will give you and your family peace of mind and prevent some of the stress that will happen at your passing.
Reference: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (June 28, 2015) “Your money: Wealthy or not, you need an estate plan”