5 Reasons Why Estate Planning Should Be Your Top Priority for 2019
Out of all your New Year’s resolutions, this is the one to keep.
New year, new you … or, at least, that’s the plan. Maybe your New Year’s resolution is to watch less TV, learn a new language or exercise more, and for the next few weeks, you’re diligent about sticking to your goals. But as the year goes on, work, social engagements, family obligations and other responsibilities start taking up your time and attention, leaving those resolutions in the backseat.
Sound familiar? The great thing about resolutions is that they give focus to what’s important to us. But when you have 365 days to accomplish them, it can be easy to put them off until next year. Similarly, parents—especially those who are young or healthy—may feel like it’s too early to think about having a will or living trust. (You’re not going anywhere soon, after all.)
The only certain thing about the future is that it’s uncertain. While we always hope for the best, having a plan in case the worst strikes is absolutely necessary to secure the best future for your family. Here’s why planning your estate should be your No. 1 priority this year.
1. It’s not just for the rich.
Some think estate planning is only for people who are wealthy. Not true. Your estate refers to everything, and we mean everything, you own, from your biggest assets (real estate, bank accounts, life insurance) to your smallest possessions (car, jewelry, furniture, clothing). Even if you don’t have much in terms of wealth, you may want your music-loving daughter to have your guitar, or for your savings to go into your son’s college fund.
2. It can be useful for when you’re still living.
In the event that you become physically or psychologically unable to advocate for yourself, your estate plan becomes your way to voice your wishes. Having a power of attorney, long-term care plan and health care and medical directives eliminate uncertainty and allows your loved ones to best help you in your time of need. A trust can authorize family to take care of your bills, home and other details for you.
3. Without one, your assets may go into probate.
In the absence of a trust, usually a probate court gets involved to distribute your assets for you. Probate is a costly, time-consuming process that can take more than a year to complete. Probate court follows state law to decide where your assets go and does not take your wishes into consideration. And, since it’s a public process, your assets and estate transactions become public record, something most people would prefer to avoid.
4. You can always make changes.
Once you make it, your trust is not set in stone. In fact, it’s a good idea to revisit it every 3–5 years and make updates. This is especially important if you’ve experienced any life-changing events, such as marriage, divorce or an addition to your family, that would affect your distribution of assets.
5. It brings you peace of mind.
Having a plan ensures that your family will be cared for no matter what happens and will put you at ease for the future—and that’s priceless.
Throughout the process, make sure to loop your kids into your plans; communicating your needs and desires will keep your plan on track and gives your children a clear idea on how to best help you. Make 2019 the year you secure your family’s future and, no matter what happens, you’ll know that you’re prepared for it.