Why You Need to Start Planning Your Estate Now
No one likes to think about death or dying. It’s just an uncomfortable topic for most people. Just because you avoid talking about it does not mean you can avoid it altogether. The one constant with all people is this: No one gets out alive. Which is why no matter what your current situation, you need to start planning your estate now.
Lack of planning can wreak havoc on your loved ones in an already troublesome situation. Not only will they be mourning, but they will have to deal with the legalities of your passing. The best person to make decisions for your estate is you. The best time to do so is now.
Maybe you think that you do not own enough assets to have to worry about your estate in the event of your death. Planning your estate is not only about divvying out assets, it is about planning ahead so that your loved ones can manage their grief without having to worry about what you may have wanted.
A few months back, my step-grandmother-in-law passed away. After her death, when the family should have been grieving and comforting one another, there were disagreements about her final wishes. No one could find a will. No one knew whether she wanted to be buried or cremated. There was a big to-do between Grandpa and her daughter about her final resting method. These things could have been avoided totally if there had been more planning ahead of time.
Do Something, Not Nothing to Prepare
Avoiding planning ahead could mean that after your passing, those whom you wanted to have your effects may lose part of your legacy. Whether to taxes, probate fees or simply because they are unaware of all of your assets, your loved ones may lose out. There are whole websites dedicated to trying to find people to claim assets that are sitting untouched.
Making a will lets your family know what assets you do have and gets them distributed as you wish them to be. It helps avoid controversy, wasted time, and unnecessary expense. It also gives your family a plan for the physical and financial care of your dependents (fur babies included). Having a will can help prevent family upsets and bickering. Who you wanted to have what is clearly laid out.
Living Revocable Trust
Many people do not realize how much time and money can be lost to the courts when your estate has to go through probate. In order to help avoid unnecessary costs, you may choose to set up a living revocable trust for your titled property and assets. By putting titled assets in the name of a trust (i.e. “The Smith Family Trust”) rather than depending upon a will, you can pass these assets to your heirs quickly and easily. A trust helps avoid federal estate tax, lengthy court proceedings, and mandated fees. A trust also protects your assets if you become incapacitated. Contact an attorney to discuss if setting up a trust is right for your estate.
One of the most helpful things that you can easily do now to help your loved ones later is to organize your documents. Getting together all of your financial and legal documents, as well as other necessary papers now can save time and hassle later.
Suggested Organizing Categories
Family Papers (adoption, custody, marriage, divorce)
Estate Documents (wills, trust, power of attorney, bank safe-deposit records)
Deeds, Titles, and Registrations
Personal Property Inventory
Statements of Debt
Income tax paperwork (for last 3 years)
Ensuring Last Wishes
It is not enough to just talk about what you want to be done after your death. What if you have a loved one who doesn’t listen? What if they don’t want to talk about death? There are lots of people who avoid all conversation about death, even though they will regret it in hindsight.
Make your last wishes known through a letter of instruction. This can outline what you want to be done with your body, describes any arrangements that you have made yourself, and informs heirs where your documents are located. This is not a legal document, but rather a letter to include your final words so they know exactly what you want to be done. This can be challenging for some to deal with. Writing the last letter to your family is akin to having that last death-bed conversation. While it may be hard, remember that it will be even harder for your loved ones to make these decisions while they mourn.
Taking simple steps to organize your estate now not only gives you piece of mind that your last wishes will be honored but comforts your loved ones in their grieving. Remember that by dealing with these things yourself now, your family will be able to cope better with your death. They will be able to process their loss better when they do not have so many other things to worry about. You are doing this for them. We always want to do what is best for them.