On September 27, 2008, Congress recognized the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. This national recognition was prompted by the fact that over 120,000,000 Americans are without up-to-date estate plans, leaving themselves and their families unprepared in the unfortunate event of illness, accidents or untimely death.
As we have mentioned in our previous blogs, it is absolutely essential for everyone to establish an estate plan. If you die without a will,
likely the courts will be forced to decide, who should represent your estate, how your assets should be distributed and who should be responsible for the care of your child. Ultimately, without creating your own estate plan, your wishes will not be taken into account.
Awareness week does not only encourages those without an estate plan to establish an estate plan but also to have individuals review any existing estate plan to make sure it still complies with their intentions. As Jayashree mentioned in a prior blog, we encourage our clients to review their estate plan at least every three to five years. This means looking at your trustees, your healthcare and power of attorney agents as well as guardians. It also means amending the estate plan to include the birth of a child or grandchild, revisiting the distribution of your estate, perhaps making charitable gifts.
Some questions to consider in establishing or amending your estate plan:
(1) Who would you trust to carry out your wishes? Who is responsible and organized to manage your affairs while balancing their own life? Who will treat all beneficiaries fairly?
(2) Who will love and take care of your child? No one wants to think about not being there for their child but no decision means the court decides.
(3) What assets do you have? Will your estate be subject to probate if your assets are not owned in a Trust? Do you own a home? Do you have a retirement account which a trust should be named the beneficiary? Will your estate be subject to estate tax?
(4) Who do you want to benefit from your estate? Do you have children? Are they minors? Has your family dynamic changed? Have you gotten divorced? Does someone have special needs which need to be planned for?
(5) How should your beneficiaries receive their inheritance? Do you want their share to go out right? Maybe you want them to reach a certain age before distribution? Do you want their share to be held in trust and funds to be distributed for their health, education, maintenance and support? Do you want to provide incentives for heirs?
We offer a complimentary 30 minutes consultation to discuss your specific situation and what estate planning strategy is best for you. Make an appointment to see one of our estate planning attorneys to ensure your wishes are carried out. Don’t be one of the 120 million Americans without an updated estate plan.