As the holiday season approaches, we anticipate joyous family gatherings, good food, holiday merriment, and…estate planning? While it may seem like a taboo subject for a fireside chat, estate planning is critically important, and the holidays can present the perfect time to get things in motion!
Some Things to Consider
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays – With children scattered across the country and grandkids away at college, it's rare that family members are in the same place at the same time. Take advantage of having more of your loved ones under the same roof (or on the same Zoom call), so you can have the conversations you need to have.
Eat, Drink, and Be In Control of Your Estate – A common misconception is that estate plans are only necessary for the ultra-wealthy – people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, more than 60% of all Americans die without even a basic will in place, leaving their estates to be divided and taxed according to predetermined federal and state laws. This, unfortunately, results in assets being distributed in ways people didn’t intend.
It’s the Forethought That Counts – A comprehensive estate plan goes beyond determining who will receive what after you’re gone. It involves answering some of life’s most personal questions, such as who will make decisions regarding your health, your children, your assets, and/or your business should you become temporarily or permanently unable to do so. It’s understandable that no one wants to imagine becoming physically or mentally incapacitated, but illness and accidents happen. The time to prepare for an emergency is before one has happened.
Traditions & Legacy – We all love the timeless traditions of the holiday season. And while your chocolate yule log recipe is legendary, what else do you want to be remembered for? What do you want to pass on to the next generation(s)? Through the use of clever estate planning tools, your legacy can be about more than just outright inheritance. You can pass on family values, security, experiences, education, charitable gifts, and much more!
Be Wary of Buying Online – Buying a sweater online is one thing, but drafting a will online is another. It's risky business. Why chance your family's future to an online estate planning service instead of hiring an experienced professional to assist you? One mistake can completely upend a document's meaning and legitimacy and be impossible to correct. In rare instances where modifications can be made, you will wind up paying more to fix things than you would have had you hired an attorney in the first place. The stakes are too high to cut corners with life or death legal documents. You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true, right? They probably are.
Making a List, Checking It Twice – Even if you already have an estate plan, it needs to be reviewed at least every four years. An outdated or inadequate estate plan can be as bad no plan at all. If any of the following events occur, you should have your estate plan reviewed immediately:
• A change in marital status
• The birth of a child
• A change in your state of residence
• A significant change in the value or character of your assets
• A change in intended beneficiaries
• The death of a beneficiary
• The death of a guardian, trustee, or personal representative named in your will
• A change in tax laws affecting federal (and your local state) estate tax deductions and calculations
• A change in privacy laws or other laws that affect the access to medical and financial information
The Bottom Line
The holiday season is a time when we pause to reflect on the people and things that matter most to us. Take time this holiday to discuss estate planning with your loved ones and then contact us for an appointment. You’ll rest easier in the New Year!