Now Is Great Time To Get Your Affairs In Order!
If you are like my family, the craziness has begun. The shopping, searching for the recipes, cleaning the house for the family members and guests, planning the activities, and the anticipation, excitement (and dread) of the families coming together for Thanksgiving holiday weekend. But despite the craziness of the occasion, it is a great time to have discussions about your estate planning desires, and decisions with your family and loved ones.
The idea of getting your financial and legal house in order is likely the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. But, getting started is much easier than you think. In fact, the end of the year is a good time to reflect upon the year that has passed and focus on your aspirations for the future. Do not hold this task off for later. Some careful thought and a little bit of work now can go a long way to help you feel 100% confident about moving forward in the new year.
In preparation for the upcoming tax season you may have already begun gathering some paperwork, like you property tax bill, year-end mortgage statement, or final pay stubs (if you heeded my previous Tax Season To Do list, if not, it is not too late to get stated). Although filing your income taxes is different than putting your affairs in order, you are already in paperwork “mode”, so now is the perfect time to reassess your legal and financial situation to create a new plan or update an existing one that no longer suits your circumstances.
Estate Planning 101
All you need to do is start with a general list of everything that you own. You do not have to complete a comprehensive inventory. Think instead about categories of assets, like bank accounts, life insurance, real estate, vehicles, etc.
Then, draw out your family tree and think about who you would like to receive what you have spent your lifetime building. If you do not put your wishes in writing, your estate-everything you have worked so hard to build-may be liquidated and will be distributed according to the government’s plan, known as intestacy.
The foundation of all estate plans are Wills and Trusts. Which one is the best for you depends on your individual circumstances. We can help you make that decision.
A Will is a written legal declaration of your intentions on how you want your property disposed upon death. This document is not legally enforceable until after your passing and, therefore, it can be changed at any time before you die or have diminished mental incapacity. A Will allows you to control what happens after you are gone.
A Trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee manages property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. There are many kinds of Trusts, ranging from living trusts to complex dynasty trusts. Each type of trust has its own benefits and drawbacks, so talk with us about which one is the best fit for your circumstances.
Although there are many types of trusts, the one most people need is a living trust. It is a great alternative to a Will, because it can be changed during your life, can provide financial protection should you become incapacitated, and yet often is easier and less expensive for your family to handle upon your death. Another common type of trust is a testamentary trust, which is one that is contained within the provisions of the Will. Just like a Will, a testamentary trust is not operative until your death, making them a little less flexible and more limited in function.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Estate planning can help provide financial stability for loved ones, designate a guardian for minor children or disabled family members, distribute property to chosen charitable organizations, reduce tax liabilities, and achieve other personal and family goals. Organizing your financial and legal affairs is your opportunity to make impactful decisions on your assets, money, and healthcare and leave a legacy after you are gone.
But estate planning can also be a great benefit while you are still alive. It can help your loved ones know your desires and wishes if you become physically or mentally incapacitated. Otherwise, the courts get involve and potentially unknown parties, usually, lawyers (ugh!), end up making decisions for you. We call this “living probate”. With your legal and financial affairs in order, you can avoid this living probate, and your loved ones can focus their energies in a positive way where it belongs, on you!
We are here to help!
Discussing and planning your estate may feel like a daunting task. We are here to help. You do not have to do this alone. All of our clients have left our office comforted with our process and relieved they finally had an estate plan. You can too! Call us at 301. 892.2713 to discuss your options and organize your future.
Live with you bags packed!
NOTE: As important is these discussions are, please do not have them during the actual Thanksgiving meal, it usually has enough drama! Ditto for the football games. Some folks may not actually hear what you are saying, even though their head is nodding.