Is This on Your List of Resolutions?
The holidays are over and another New Year is about to begin.
Aunt Dorothy’s fruitcake is cleaned up from the back yard, where apparently the squirrels and birds won’t eat it either. Your new fitness watch is telling you (after your walk) that you only need 6,398 more steps today to reach the optimal 10,000 daily. You held your tongue throughout dinner when your daughter’s fiancé discussed the lawsuit he might file against his fourth employer in 2017 for unfair termination and your son announced to everyone he didn’t need college because he was going to be a rock star.
The New Year is also when most people make resolutions – usually to get in shape and get their finances in order. Unfortunately, the latter generally only goes as far as the goal to pay off credit card debt, when that financial resolution should really also include making a plan for how to handle disability or death.
People put off making an estate plan, all too often until it’s too late. Planning for one’s disability or demise is a topic many people find too depressing and too far into the future to worry about now. That’s something you’ll take care of when you’re 75 or 80. But too often, disaster strikes early.
An estate attorney can help you and your family plan for these inevitabilities. A revocable trust can help manage your estate during a term of incapacity, avoid probate and help protect your heirs from themselves, their creditors, and potential predators. This is especially important if you are concerned about the way your heirs might spend the inheritance you worked your lifetime to create. Creating a trust enables you, the Trustor or Grantor, to establish guidelines for when and how funds should be dispersed. You can withhold funds, for example, until they are needed to pay for college tuition or until an heir has reached a certain age. A trust can also help protect your heirs from losing their inheritance in the event of divorce. Alternatively, you might only need a Will based estate plan and various powers of attorney. It is important to discuss your needs and wishes with a qualified estate planning attorney who can understand your goals and advise you on the best plan for your circumstances.
Of course, things change! Even if you already have an estate plan, it is important to review your plan upon any changes in your family – births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and any changes in the law. Most attorneys recommend an estate review at least every 2-3 years to maintain the best plan for you and your family. The New Year is a great time to reassess – or create – your own estate plan.