While 2020 has seemed like the never-ending year, it is, in fact, drawing to a close. In the midst of planning for a drastically different looking holiday, many folks will have some year-end tax business, including making charitable donations, contributing to SEP IRAs or putting money into 529 college plans. Others will begin dreaming ahead to New Year’s resolutions—retooling exercise plans that were centered on group classes or promising to finish up quarantine house projects.
Tackling your estate planning covers both bases—it’s a smart, forward-thinking financial decision and a “resolution” that you can actually knock out with just a few straightforward steps. This winter, resolve to build an estate plan that works for you, gives you peace of mind and takes at least one thing off your already-busy plate.
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Why you need an estate plan
Many people are under the misconception that estate planning is just for the very wealthy. Others think it’s only necessary as you age, ignoring that uncomfortable truth that no one knows when they may become incapacitated or pass away. The truth is, estate planning is for anyone over the age of eighteen, but especially people who own assets, including bank accounts or real property, anyone with children and anyone who wants a say in their potential medical care.
What’s included in an estate plan?
While it’s possible to create DIY, one-size-fits-all estate plans, doing so doesn’t make much sense. That’s because every family is different and every family’s financial situation is different. For the parents of special needs children, for example, an estate plan that doesn’t take public benefits into account could be financially disastrous. Well-crafted estate plans will often include:
- A last will and testament. This document names your executor and lays out how you want your estate to be handled after you die. If you plan to leave some of your assets to charity, you do so here. The parents of minor kids will also name a guardian should they both die.
- Advance medical directive and living will. This will allow a person of your choosing to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable. You may also detail your wishes regarding end-of-life or life-sustaining care.
- Financial power of attorney: Again, if you’re unable, a person of your choosing will be able to help pay your bills, sell assets and handle other financial matters.
Additionally, families with a special needs child may include a revocable trust to protect that child’s future.
Why creating an estate plan should be a 2021 goal
According to the American Bar Association, 55 percent of Americans die without an estate plan, creating expensive problems for their survivors. It’s easy to put off, especially since it may seem not only uncomfortable but also time consuming or daunting.
Usually, however, it’s only working up the will (pun intended!) to make the first call that’s the challenge. After that, an estate attorney can help guide you through the rest of the process. There will be some things you’ll need to answer yourself, like how you envision end-of-life care, or who you want to raise your children if you pass away while they’re young. But don’t let uncertainty or discomfort stop you from going through the process. It’s possible (and recommended!) to revisit estate plans as financial situations change, kids grow up and values shift.
Estate planning can protect your minor child, your special needs child, your surviving spouse (or healthy spouse if you’re ill) and your financial assets. It also saves your family from having to make challenging decisions on your behalf and from dealing with issues created without proper estate planning.
This season, make it a priority to get an estate plan in place, or update your plan if it’s been a long time since you drafted it. We promise it will be easier than running a half marathon, doing a Marie Kondo on your home or giving up carbs.
Speak With an Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer
Planning is more important than ever right now. At Nadler Biernath, we have experience handling all aspects of estate planning, special needs law and elder law. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation to discuss how we can help your loved ones.