What’s your plan? October 2014 National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. Many of us are unaware that without proper estate planning, our assets are at risk of being disposed to the wrong people by default through probate.

In 2008, the third week in October was proclaimed as a National Estate Planning Awareness week by Congress.  This year, the Estate Planning Awareness Week is from October 20th to the 26th.

Why is it important to be aware and share?

Proper planning of an estate minimizes hardships, and wasted funds families will spend in the event of illness, accidents or the passing of a loved one.

So what’s your estate plan?

proper estate planningI’m not rich; I don’t need to have an estate plan! – Estate planning is not only for rich people, everyone has an estate no matter the size or value.  An estate plan also outlines health directives, guardianship and many other details that are completely unrelated to a dollar amount.

I’m too young to create an estate plan – Estate planning is not only for the elderly, it’s for anyone that wants to create a plan outlining their wishes and insures they’ll be carried out as instructed if and when they’re disabled or pass away. Their family members are protected and their young children are well cared for in the event something bad will happen.

“Accidents can, and do happen at any age”.

“I’m 43, my husband is 46, we have 3 children, and own a home.  I hope to live for a very long time, but having a proper estate plan puts my mind at ease, knowing my children will not be left to deal with the burden after I’m gone, which can literally happen at any time and for any reason, besides I like deciding what happens if my spouse remarries, so I’m definitely in.” Jody Brooke – Seattle, WA.

If you don’t have a plan, the courts and state law will dictate the plan and the distribution of your assets.  Browse these questions to self-assess your current plan:

  • Have you established a trust or will?
  • Has a qualified estate planning attorney reviewed your trust or will in the past two years?
  • Do you have a power of attorney or health directive outlined naming the person you choose to make health care decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to?
  • Does your plan include a custom directive on what occurs if you were to become mentally disabled?
  • Are you confident your current estate plan minimizes estate taxes? Both federal and state
  • Do you have a Revocable Living Trust? Is it fully funded to avoid delays and expenses of probate for your family?
  • Were steps taken in your estate planning to avoid contests and disputes during administration of your estate?
  • What happens to the children’s inheritance if your surviving spouse decides to remarry?
  • Have you re-reviewed your retirement plans and life insurance policies to insure you still agree with who is designated as the beneficiary?
  • Does your current estate plan protect your surviving spouse or children from creditors and lawsuits?
  • Have you named or are you still satisfied with the guardians you named to care for your minor children?
  • Are you satisfied with the person named in your plan as an estate executor and trustee?
  • Are you fully confident that your estate executor, power of attorney and trustee are ready to act on your behalf when asked to?

*This is an illustrative list and not an inclusive one.  There are many more details to consider when discussing estate planning. 

estate tax protectionLife transitions, people change, financial situations change, even if you’ve established a plan a few years back, it must be re-evaluated by a qualified estate adviser to insure validity, and address any changes that have occurred.  

If anything is certain, it is that change is certain.  The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow. Philip Crosby

If any of the questions mentioned above seemed confusing, or your answer is “no” or  “I don’t know” to any of the questions, it may be time to have a discussion with an experienced estate planning attorney, they act as your personal estate planning professional to insure you plans are solid to protect you, your estate and your family.

 

Related Recommended Links:

National Association of Estate Planners and Council

Text of Designating the third week of October as “National Estate Planning Awareness Week”

Identifying the Probate Assets – Estate Professional Protection

Is an elder law attorney different from an estate attorney or probate lawyer?

Find and download a complete PDF Questionnaire by Wealthcounsel

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