It is National Estate Planning Awareness Week
Congress designated October 15-19, 2018, as National Estate Planning Awareness Week, an effort that started in 2008 to help educate the public about this often-overlooked aspect of financial security and end-of-life planning. Estate planning has the reputation of being useful only for the wealthy or those of retirement age, but estate plans offer numerous benefits to virtually everyone. Many people do not realize the variety of functions estate planning encompasses, including saving loved ones money and time, controlling how assets are distributed, addressing issues of incapacitation, and giving families direction and peace of mind during difficult times. Establishing an estate plan frequently entails establishing a team of financial and legal experts, an effort that begins with finding an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the documents and arrangements appropriate for each situation. A general discussion of estate planning is explored below, along with key end-of-year actions individuals should take to ensure an existing estate plan is current and valid.
General Estate Planning
The news has been full of stories about high-profile celebrities, Prince and Aretha Franklin being recent examples, who died without an estate plan and how this oversight creates legal and intra-family chaos. No estate plan typically means lengthy and expensive probate proceedings to determine how assets should be distributed according to state law – not the wishes of the deceased – and the potential payment of additional taxes that depletes the value of the estate as a whole. Even a simple will is a good start, although more is usually needed to provide the protection and direction most families need and want. No estate plan fails to provide for minor or disabled children who need a guardian in the event of a parent’s death. Without an estate plan, questions are left as to how to address medical treatment and financial decisions if a person becomes incapacitated due to a mental and/or physical impairment. In addition, estate planning provides a vehicle for asset protection and growth of assets with the potential to create a stable financial foundation for families years into the future. Estate planning has a direct impact on personal and financial matters, both in the near and distant futures.
End-of-Year Estate Planning Checklist
Beyond encouraging everyone to create an estate plan, National Estate Planning Awareness Week is designed to remind those with an estate plan that it needs periodic attention and review. The end of each calendar year is a good time to assess whether the current plan is up to date and still meets the needs of the person who created it. Steps a person can take to determine the effectiveness of his/her estate plan include:
- Review beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, etc.
- Inventory assets to see if recent purchases, such as a new home or a valuable antique, require an update to a will or transfer into a trust to keep them protected, as well as review trustees to see if changes need to be made.
- Review financial and health care power of attorney documents (legal arrangements that allow someone to act on person’s behalf in certain situations) to see if any gaps need to be addressed.
- Create a digital estate plan that provides for online financial and personal accounts, so it is clear who should have access and how they should be handled upon death or incapacity.
Speak With an Estate Planning Attorney
Effective estate planning takes time and a considerable amount of thought to fully capture all your needs and wishes. Working with the experienced Atlanta attorneys at MendenFreiman will give you the guidance and foundation you need to provide for yourself and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.