Creating an estate is one the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Your plan can give both you and your loved ones the confidence that comes from knowing that the decisions that will get carried out after you die (or after you are unable to speak for yourself) are exactly consistent with what you would have wanted. With this confidence, you and your loved ones can have the peace of knowing your legacy is the one you truly intended.
During the holiday season, many people obsess over the giving of gifts. They worry and fret regarding whether the gifts they've given are “the perfect gifts.” Of course, another holiday season has passed and, with it, the time for giving holiday gifts. However, there is still one truly perfect gift you can give yourself and your loved ones, and that is an estate plan.
To yourself you are giving the giving of peace. Your properly crafted and executed estate plan can give you peace of mind from knowing that your legacy will be the one you wanted to leave. You can have confidence knowing that your wealth will be divided and distributed exactly in the manner that you want. With no estate plan, your assets are divided by a state statute enacted years ago by the legislature of the state where you reside. If you have estate planning goals that go beyond just dividing your wealth among your natural children and your spouse, then your plan can give you the peace of knowing that all of those that matter to you will be included in your plan.
Maybe you have a favorite charity (or charities.) Perhaps you have stepchildren whom you never adopted but whom you consider to be “your kids.” Perhaps you have a beloved non-spousal partner, a trusty neighbor or dear friends who are important parts of your life and whom you want to be a part of your estate plan, as well. With your plan in place, you can rest easy knowing that they will all be included.
Your plan also gives you peace of reducing the risk of your goals being thwarted. Maybe you have a child with whom you have an estranged relationship and whom you've decided to leave only a small (or no) inheritance. Even if your relationship with all your relatives is great, you could still be vulnerable to challenges by people such as someone alleging that he/she is your long-lost biological and legal child. With your plan, you can know that you've put down on paper exactly who is, and is not, supposed to receive a portion of your wealth.
This minimizing of the risk of courtroom battles also ties into another gift, which is the gift of providing for your family. You've spent most of your adult life providing for your family. Why wouldn't you want to take the necessary steps to give yourself confidence that you've continued to provide for them even after you're gone? Beyond just reducing the risk of estate litigation, your plan gives more to your family. Your plan gives them the confidence in knowing that the actions that get carried out after you've passed, from your final arrangements to who gets the house to who gets your prized collectibles, are exactly the ones that you'd have wanted.
Speaking of giving your family confidence, your plan can pass on this gift even before you die. Should you be in a position where you cannot make decisions for yourself, your plan documents can speak for you. Whether it's management of your assets or something much larger — like end-of-life decisionmaking — your plan, in the form of your powers of attorney and living will, can speak to your loved ones (and to others like financial institutions and doctors) for you, to ensure that your wishes get carried exactly in the way you want.