Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones: Why Estate Planning Is Important

There’s a common misconception that if you have a will, you have all the protection you need to cover yourself and your beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, that’s not always true.

No matter how simple you believe your estate may be, a will alone usually isn’t enough.

And that’s because a will primarily focuses on where your assets will go after you’ve passed away. But what happens if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself?

Regardless of your age or financial circumstances, having a comprehensive plan in place helps address complications that may arise if you’re suddenly unable to make essential life decisions.

Ensuring you’re taken care of in the event you become incapacitated is part of why estate planning is so important.

Everyone needs an estate plan

The term “estate plan” might immediately make you think of wealthy individuals trying to minimize their tax burden.

And while a good estate plan can help minimize taxes and make the probate process less time-consuming, estate plans are for everyone because they act as a set of instructions for your property and beneficiaries after your death.

I completely understand that the thought of estate planning may be daunting, but it’s a fairly straightforward process when you have guidance. 

Working with an experienced attorney is vital, as they can create a plan that meets your unique needs and provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

What’s included in a good estate plan?

Besides outlining key documents that help ensure your wishes are respected, a good estate plan can head off potential conflicts among your loved ones.

The specifics of an estate plan vary from person to person but should include a number of key documents.

In addition to a will, your estate plan may also include a trust, power of attorney, and health care directives.

Estate planning documents: Living Trust, Living Will, and Healthcare Power of Attorney can be made less complicated with the right help.

Your plan should include all the necessary legal language.

Certified estate planning specialist Ken Kossoff tells of a man who faced litigation with his sibling over his mother’s trust because it was missing one simple but important legal paragraph pertaining to her assets.

“He previously told me how proud he was that through his efforts, his mother’s trust was a lot shorter than the documents that most lawyers draw,” Ken said.

But in the case of estate planning, thoroughness is always best.

Had this paragraph been included for Ken’s client, it would have prevented the sibling from successfully challenging the trust.

Include more than official legal terms and documents

An estate planning attorney can help you create a personalized plan.

For example, you may want to include a personal letter expressing how much you love the recipients, lessons you want to convey to them, or memories you cherish. 

These types of documents can provide emotional solace for those dealing with the grief of your loss.

You may also want to include directives specific to you and your family dynamic for potential disputes among beneficiaries.

Another of Ken Kossoff’s clients included such a message in his estate plan for a judge should any of the client’s descendants challenge the will.

In the document, the client asked the judge to make sure the judge’s ruling pleased no one, “Basically [this client] said, ‘I know that sometimes at least one side is upset with the resolution of litigation, if not both sides. 

And if my family’s going to fight over my estate, Judge, I would like you to come up with a decision that pisses both sides off. 

Because if they’re going to fight about my estate, they should be upset because I’ll be upset. And if I can do anything about it in the afterlife, I will.'”

These types of directives not only make your final wishes clear, even after death, but they can also provide a sense of relief to your loved ones.

As Ken puts it, “I like the client’s family being able to look at the document and say, ‘Oh, this is the exact kind of thing my father would’ve said.'”

How to get started on your estate plan

Later Life Living can help you find an estate planning attorney, but it’s important that whoever you choose is right for you.

An estate planning attorney will advise and guide your estate planning process.

Here are some questions to ask as you search for the right estate planning attorney:

  • Is this person well-versed in the essential legal components of a good estate plan? 
  • Does this person specialize in estate planning in my specific state?
  • Is this estate planning attorney certified? 
  • Are they genuinely interested in my specific situation?

Trusting the person you work with on your estate plan helps give you peace of mind that your views will be reflected in the final documents.

Why estate planning is important for everyone

  • A good estate plan is clear, comprehensive, and personalized to fit your specific needs and wishes.
  • Having more than a will in place will help protect you in the event you’re incapacitated.
  • Your estate plan will save your beneficiaries from the immense legal fees of probate court and possible lawsuits between family members after death – leaving more of your estate to those you care about rather than wasted on court costs.
  • Including letters and directives specific to your family dynamic will help avoid conflict and provide emotional solace. 

By investing your time now to create a solid estate plan, you’ll lessen the emotional toll your incapacity or death will take on those you care about most.

And you can rest assured that you’ve done what you can to encourage your family members to support each other as they mourn your passing and embrace what you meant to them.

Find an estate planning specialist near you and get started on your plan today.

Later Life Living
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About: Marty Stevens-Heebner

An award-winning entrepreneur, designer and author, Clear Home Solutions’ CEO Marty Stevens-Heebner and her staff of experts work with older adults and their families when their treasures, paperwork and “stuff” get in the way of moving their lives forward. Clear Home Solutions is where compassion meets know-how, thanks to her hard-working staff of experts. They tackle moves, downsizing and organizing, as well as professional home inventories, managing all the logistics and stress so their clients don’t have to.

Marty was inspired to launch Clear Home Solutions 8 years ago after her experiences with her 90-year-old father and her 88-year-old aunt with dementia. She’s the President-Elect of the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers (NASMM), and Clear Home Solutions was the first nationally accredited company in her industry in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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