Let’s be upfront about this from the very start. Estate planning isn’t about you.
It’s about protecting your loved ones.
This isn’t something that most of us want to think about, because the idea of leaving our loved ones alone simply isn’t a pleasant idea to dwell on. Of course, the irony here is that if we would just take the time to do some actual estate planning in the here and now, you won’t leave them without any help or protection. You’ll be giving them something to rely on in the future, no matter what happens.
So, let’s take a closer look at what, exactly, estate planning includes and why it is so important to take care of it right now.
Important Elements of an Estate Plan
Estate planning is how you can choose who gets what, reduce the taxes on the things you leave behind, and minimize arguments and frustrations that crop up all too often between family members after you’re gone.
There are a number of elements and issues that need to be addressed in the process of setting up an estate plan. It may seem overwhelming at first, and you may not even want to think about it, but it is extremely important when you want to protect your family’s future.
First, there are a lot of documents that need to be set in order to make sure your family is protected and secure. These include:
- Last Will and Testament – Control the distribution of assets upon death.
- Living Will – Determine specific actions for specific medical conditions.
- Durable Power of Attorney – Give someone the ability to make financial decisions for you.
- Medical Power of Attorney – Give someone the ability to make medical decisions for you.
- Designation of Guardian for Property/Personal Needs – Determine who will manage these needs.
- Priority Visitation Directive – Make sure that family members cannot be denied access to you in the hospital.
- Affidavit of Burial or Cremation – Leave no question of what the funeral director should do.
Second, there are some other issues that need to be considered as part of your estate plan. These include:
- Property ownership
- Marital agreements
- Trust planning
These aspects of an estate require time and consideration to make sure everything is in order. The sooner they get done, the more likely everything will line up and be in place when they are needed.
Why Start Now?
None of us like to think about the unfortunate eventualities of life.
However, not thinking about those eventualities won’t stop them from happening.
And estate planning is not just something that the super-wealthy get to worry about. A solid plan can benefit anyone of any financial status and help their families feel safer and more secure, even in the face of those eventualities.
So, let’s look closer at what, exactly, an estate plan can do for you if you get it set up as soon as possible.
Deal with loss of capacity – Whether it’s through accident or age, there may come a time when you are no longer able to manage and maintain your own affairs. This could come on gradually, and you may have some time to prepare for it, but it could also result from a sudden and unexpected accident.
If your plan is in place right now, then you’ve already made the best decisions about who can step in and make sure that you and your family are cared for.
Protect the family – Your spouse and your children may rely on you for a lot, and if the unthinkable happens, you need to be sure that they are properly cared for. You will need to designate your beneficiaries now and make sure that they are receiving everything they should.
Keep the family together – Will one sibling demand more of your assets? Will another family member hold a grudge for years because they never got that one specific heirloom they felt they deserved?
Family strife after the loss of a loved one is, unfortunately, all too common. Too often one member of the family “thought you always meant for them to have that one item,” but it turns out another member of the family got there first.
You can put an end to this kind of familial strife but putting your wishes down on paper right now.
Be tax efficient – Any wealth or assets that you transfer to other family members upon your passing can be subject to a range of taxation. If you start planning for these transfers as soon as possible, though, you can reduce a lot of those federal taxes and ensure that it’s your family, and not the IRS, that get the larger share of your money.
The Right Plan for Your Family
Every family is different. Your individual situations call for individual plans, and at Chianese & Reilly Law, we have experienced and dedicated lawyers who are happy to discuss your concerns, questions, and goals about estate planning.
At our NYC law firm, we can work with you to create a plan that will provide for your loved ones and make sure your own needs are always met.