Most people realize that they need an estate plan, yet the vast majority of Americans do not have one, according to the Lockport Journal in “Senior Spotlight: Composing the ‘family love letter.’” One reason people don’t take care of this, is because they don’t fully understand why estate planning is needed.
Consider this idea: an estate plan is about protecting yourself while you are alive, protecting your family when you have passed and leaving a legacy for the living.
Some of the main elements of an estate plan are to create and execute documents that provide for incapacity and death as well as provide information about your assets, liabilities and wishes.
You’ve spent a lifetime accumulating assets. It is now time to sit down with family members and have a heart-to-heart talk about the details of the estate and what your intentions are with respect to its distribution. The subject of death can be challenging for all. However, discussing your estate plan is vital, if you want to protect your family from what might come after you are gone.
Without discussions and an estate, the chances of a family split, assets not going where you had intended and unnecessarily higher costs in taxes and legal fees, are a very real possibility.
If speaking about these topics is too hard, you may want to write your family a love letter. It would contain all the information that your family would need at the time of your death or if you become incapacitated because of illness or injury.
Your estate plan should also include the documents needed, so your family can make decisions on your behalf, if you are incapacitated. That includes a power of attorney, a health care directive and may include others specific to your situation.
Ideally, all this information will be located in one convenient place. Don’t put it on a computer where you use a password. If the family cannot access your computer, all your hard work will be useless to them. Put it in a folder or a notebook, that is clearly labeled and tell family members where it is.
They’ll need this information:
- A list of your important contacts — your estate planning attorney, financial advisor, CPA, insurance broker and medical professionals.
- Credit card information, frequent flier miles.
- Insurance and benefits including all health, life, disability, long-term care, Medicare, property deeds, employment and any military benefits.
- Documents including your will, power of attorney, birth certificates, military papers, divorce decrees and citizenship papers.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: Lockport Journal (Feb. 16, 2019) “Senior Spotlight: Composing the ‘family love letter’”