Wills – Revocable Trusts – Irrevocable Trusts

Some people put off estate planning because they think it is death planning.  In reality, done correctly, estate planning is really life planning for yourself and your loved ones.  It is a loving act.  You are showing that you care about yourself and your family.

Others may think that estate planning is only for the rich. You don’t need to have a large estate to benefit from estate planning. With good estate planning, you can leave instructions for your own care if you are mentally incapacitated and instructions for the care of your loved ones if you die.

Sadly, many people spend more time planning a vacation than planning for their own care and the care of their loved ones.

Planning for Your Care

Estate planning makes provisions for your care if you are mentally incapacitated.  What could be more important to you personally!  If you can’t make your own medical decisions, you can name someone you trust to make those decisions, and give them some guidelines for what you would want done or not done.

Likewise, if you are incapacitated, you can have someone you know and trust handle your financial affairs, such as paying your bills, selling property if necessary, managing investments, filing tax returns, and similar tasks.  You can give specific instructions concerning these matters.

For instance, if you want to be sure that a family farm, homestead or vacation property is not sold, you can leave instructions to that effect.

If you want to maintain certain memberships or keep sports tickets to pass on to future generations, you can leave instructions for paying for such items and how they are to be managed.

Whatever is important to you and your family can be covered in your planning instructions, but only if your attorney takes the time to discover these important items.

Planning for the Care of Your Loved Ones

Estate planning also makes provisions for your loved ones if you are gone.  Do you want to provide for your spouse when you are gone? What about your children and grandchildren?

You can leave specific instructions for the care of your spouse, children, grandchildren and other loved ones in your estate plan.  These instructions can help nurture these important people.  For instance, you may want to be sure that your children or grandchildren are not spoiled by an inheritance.  You may want to give them incentives to complete their schooling, make good grades, get a good job and make a contribution to society.  Your estate plan can encourage these goals.

Your estate plan can also ensure that your wealth stays in the family. How would you feel if you left an inheritance to your daughter and then she died and her husband received your daughter’s remaining inheritance? What if your former son-in-law remarried and left that inheritance to his new step-children? You can ensure that your wealth stays in the family, but only if you put good instructions in place. You need an experienced attorney who is willing to take the time to help you put create these instructions.

Changing your Plan as Your Life Changes

Once your plan is in place, you need to keep the plan up to date.  Most people review their plan about once every 20 years.  Imagine all of the things that change in 20 years.  Your family situation can change with births, deaths, marriages, divorces.  You get new friends, and old friends can move away or drift away from you.  Your finances change, generally with more or different assets being accumulated.  You cancel some insurance policies or acquire new policies.  You move your retirement plan from work to an IRA.  Your investment advisor moves to a new firm.  The tax law changes.  Your views or philosophy about life—which are reflected in your planning instructions—can change, which means that you need to change your plan.

If you don’t review your plan on a regular basis, your plan will quickly become outdated due to some or all of these changes.  The failure to review and update a plan is the number one reason that plans fail to work.  Are you going to let your investment in your estate plan go to waste by not reviewing and updating it?

Your estate plan is a living, growing, adapting process, just like you and your family.  It needs to be tended like a garden or it will soon wilt.