Estate planning is part of life planning.
Most people think of death when they consider estate planning.
Because people often avoid the unpleasant and uncomfortable, they ignore estate planning conversations.
Although this is understandable, it is neither helpful nor accurate.
According to a recent aol.com article titled “Estate Planning: 7 Things To Make Sure You Do,” estate planning could also be considered life planning.
In fact, in our law practice, we refer to our services as Life & Estate Planning.
Although estate planning does provide directions for what happens when you die, it also has implications for you and your loved ones while you are alive.
Comprehensive estate planning also accounts for incapacity planning.
What might a comprehensive estate plan include?
Generally, it will involve the creation of a last will and testament with a guardian named for any minor children, financial powers of attorney, medical directives, trusts, and a business succession plan when relevant.
These actions are best taken when you are of sound mind and are not rushed by an illness or impending death.
What can you do now to begin your estate planning?
Create an inventory of assets.
Doing so is also essential for life planning.
By listing your bank accounts, financial accounts, insurance policies, and contact information for professions, you will be more aware of what you have and be better equipped to make decisions as life circumstances change.
It will also give you an excuse to gather and make copies of important documents like mortgage documents, estate planning documents, car titles, and house deeds.
Because you do not know when something untoward will happen, store these in a waterproof and fireproof storage container or safe.
Practically speaking, you should go a step further and let your loved ones know where you store your “papers” is important to life planning.
Include your social media and digital assets.
Daily life involves social media or other digital assets like emails, family photos, or rewards programs.
Not surprisingly, most of these platforms have their own rules.
As part of your life planning, you should review these policies to determine how they handle legacy access for a designated individual to download content, gather data, and gain control of assets.
Appoint an Agent to make financial and legal decisions.
As previously mentioned, incapacity planning is life planning.
It involves preparing for what will happen if you are still alive but unable to manage your financial or other affairs yourself.
Failing to create a general durable power of attorney document could leave your loved ones without access to important accounts.
Instead, your loved ones would have to petition the courts to gain access to use these funds on your behalf.
Appoint a Healthcare Agent.
Similar to a financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney protects you and your wishes.
The difference is the healthcare version is limited to medical decisions and information.
Some states have limits regarding who can serve in this role, making it important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Create wills and trusts, a health care treatment directive, and a living trust.
A last will and testament allows you to designate property distribution, appoint an executor, and choose a guardian for minor children.
A health care treatment directive is especially valuable in life planning.
With it, you can provide general or specific instructions regarding the type of interventions and care you would like to receive in times of medical crisis.
This includes instructions for various forms of life support.
A living trust allows you to directly transfer the assets held by the trust rather than going through probate first.
Keep funeral instructions separate from your last will and testament.
Burial and funeral instructions include information on memorial services, cremations, burial plots, and headstones.
Regardless whether you have made arrangements in advance as part of your life planning, leaving your wishes and the appropriate documentation and contact information will alleviate stress for your loved ones.
If you include them in your last will and testament, they will likely not be read until after your funeral.
Because circumstances change, you should review your plan every three to five years or after major life changes.
Our rule of thumb for our clients is for them to conduct their own review every two years and schedule a “full physical exam” of their estate plan as needed for peace of mind.
Reference: aol.com (Feb. 20, 2023) “Estate Planning: 7 Things To Make Sure You Do”