Estate planning is not just a resource for wealthy married people to dispose of property upon death. It is an effective tool for everyone to provide for themselves and for loved ones and to protect against the risk and consequences of the inevitable changes that occur during life.
It is a common observation in life that the older you get, the more complicated and hectic life becomes. In the modern world, most people work harder, live longer and accumulate more wealth than ever before. And for better or worse, technological advances like social media, online banking and investing, and “do-it-yourself” online legal documents — all designed to simplify your social and financial life — have expanded the nature of relationships and the opportunities to share personal wealth with future generations.
Unfortunately, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the stresses of your daily routine that you fail to anticipate major life events and their effect on the present and future management of your estate. This article discusses how effective estate planning can minimize those stresses and maximize benefits during life.
There are several familiar estate planning resources that become effective upon death. These commonly include:
- Last wills and testaments
- Testamentary trusts
- Intestate distribution
- Life insurance policies
These estate planning instruments are effective tools for addressing the issues that affect your family and property after your death. The benefits of using these tools in your estate plan may include:
- Avoiding probate
- Providing the needs of loved ones
- Minimizing taxes
- Satisfying accumulated debt
- Clarifying family expectations
- Establishing philanthropic benefits
These are all important issues that you should discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney as you consider how you wish to dispose of your property upon your death. And because, as the saying goes, “the future is promised to no one,” you should not delay in addressing these important financial issues.
Unfortunately, however, people avoid or delay their estate planning for many reasons. For some, estate planning is one of those activities that you know you should do but that you avoid because it seems complicated and confusing. Others live under the mistaken belief that estate planning is only for the youthful, the wealthy or those with spouses and children. Still others think that estate planning is only necessary when anticipating death.
In fact, none of these assumptions is accurate. Rather, in addition to the benefits provided upon death, estate planning can resolve a variety of life's difficulties and concerns right now.
Whether you are working or retired, married or single, financially secure or barely making ends meet, effective estate planning is important not only for the distribution of property upon death, but it also can resolve many of the financial issues that arise during life. An experienced estate planning attorney can discuss with you how your estate plan can help you:
- Establish financial security
- Protect family business interests
- Prepare for unexpected disability or incapacity
- Integrate adopted children into your estate plan
- Respond to changes in the tax laws
- Provide for family members with special needs
- Maximize retirement benefits
- Plan for the care of beloved pets
- Absorb the financial consequences of marriage or divorce
Of course you may not experience all of the life events for which estate planning may be necessary. However, life is full of stressful changes. Discussing your immediate and long-term financial concerns with a professional estate planner can be an effective way to minimize the financial stresses and insecurities that inevitably arise in your daily life — often when you least expect them.
It is often said that the only constant in life is change. Many changes you experience in life are self-imposed and may be necessary or even welcomed. These might include:
- Getting married (or divorced)
- Having a child
Some changes you may wish to avoid, but they may be inevitable and, therefore, can be anticipated. Such changes might include:
- Paying taxes
- Declining health
- Eventual death
Unfortunately, many changes occur completely unexpectedly and can have devastating consequences. These changes could include:
- Catastrophic injury or illness
- Sudden death in the family
- Unexpected loss of income
- Unanticipated expenses or financial crisis
So often, it is not the changes, themselves, that cause you stress or anxiety in your daily life but, rather, realizing that you are not prepared for the changes when they finally occur.
Fortunately, one of the purposes of financial planning is simply to prepare for the inevitability of change. When you are financially prepared for the changes you experience in life — whether they are self-imposed, anticipated or unexpectedly catastrophic — you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you can handle whatever changes come your way. When you have peace of mind for your future and the financial future of your loved ones, you will be better able to handle the hustle, bustle and stresses of your daily routine.
The best way to plan now for your future is to discuss your financial goals and expectations with an experienced estate planning attorney. Your estate planner will not only advise you on the laws applicable to your current circumstances but will help you to anticipate the changes that you are likely to confront in your future. In doing so, your estate planning attorney can decide with you the most appropriate estate planning tools that will help you to respond to those changes with less stress, greater peace of mind, and long-term financial security.
As you contemplate your estate plan and continue to learn more about how estate planning can benefit you, consider not only your goals for the distribution of your property upon death, but consider how estate planning can help you to control the chaos and financial concerns that you experience now in your daily life.
Making an appointment with your estate planner is an important first step in this process. Look for future articles here to learn more about specific estate planning strategies that you can discuss with your estate planner in achieving your immediate and long-term financial goals.