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Estate Planning 101, Why You Should Start Now

August 19, 2021

Life is a never ending obstacle course chock full of responsibilities, appointments, errands, and to-do lists. As such, estate planning isn’t something people typically tackle right away. People often wait until they reach a more “appropriate age,” like retirement, to start chipping away at their estate plans. On top of that, we all agree that estate planning is one of those dry subjects that is not particularly fun to think about.

That said, planning your estate now allows you to actually enjoy the present more and feel lighthearted about the future. Why? Avoiding the decisions that need to be made around your estate can create undue stress, stress that becomes your loved one’s stress if not dealt with while you are alive.

Rather than piling that stress onto yourself, or worse onto your loved ones, you can choose to give this important element of your life some proper attention. Giving attention to your future and that of your beneficiaries or loved one’s, allows you to be more plugged into the present moment. You can rest easy knowing that no matter what happens and when it happens, your finances are in order and represent your most important wants and needs.

To understand what estate planning is and what aspects of it are essential to tackle right away, keep reading.

A Last Will & Testament, and Executor Role

One of the most important and commonly referred to documents that come to mind when one thinks of estate planning is what is called a last will and testament. Within the confines of a will document, you lay out who in your life you’ve assigned an executor role to. Additionally, and in the event of your sudden death, your last will and testament provides detail as to how and to whom your assets are dispersed.

The executor assigned in your last will works hand in hand with the state’s probate court to ensure that management of your estate goes according to your plan. A sudden death without this document in place can cause extreme turmoil within your family unit whose time would be better served grieving your death. To avoid this situation, it is ideal to work with an estate planning attorney whose sole objective is to cover all of your bases and point out aspects of your life you may or may not like to include within your last will and testament.

Naming Your Beloved Beneficiaries

Immediately following your death, costs will arise that need to be covered in order to execute your funeral proceedings right away. Additionally, medical bills may spur from your situation reaching dollar amounts that can be shocking or overwhelming to your loved ones. When these costs arrive, the probate courts may keep funds you have available locked up and inaccessible for an unforeseeable period, even when a will is established. This can make your family responsible for the immediate costs and again, leave your family in a highly stressful situation.

Luckily, this can be avoided fairly easily. A simple “transfer on death” beneficiary can be named on all of your financial accounts. Naming this beneficiary, while a quick and easy process, is absolutely crucial to getting your funds in your beneficiary’s hands right away should they need access to them in order to cover any unexpected expenses.

Appointing a Medical Directive

While so far it seems like estate planning solely covers your death, there are estate planning documents that can speak for you while you are still alive. In the event that something tragic occurs and you become so incapacitated that you are unable to make sound decisions for yourself, an appointed medical directive named in your estate planning documents will be able to make those decisions for you. This is obviously someone you have a high amount of trust in to make decisions based on your best interest, and often in situations that provoke a lot of pressure and high stress.

A portion of your estate documents will outline your exact wishes that are then executed or considered in part by your medical directive. You can rest easy knowing that in the event something happens to you, your desires and needs are absolutely clear to your medical directive and family; they will understand who you would like to play what role in a crisis-given situation. A crisis such as this can happen at any time, so appointing a medical directive now prevents panic, confusion, and/or conflict for those you love later.

Avoid Avoidance Itself

There is no greater enemy of your finances and financial security than avoidance itself. While estate planning is not commonly found on to-do lists written early in life, getting organized in this way now by putting something in place is a favor you are doing for yourself and your family.

No one wants to think, discuss, or plan for their death, and it’s easy to understand why. But giving attention to these documents leave your loved one in a less vulnerable position should they find themselves in the wake of your passing.

After the macro components of your estate planning are outlined, you can then spend time throughout the remainder of your life laying out the micro details. Financial situations and personal relationships change over time; with estate ground already covered, you can go in and adjust your documents to reflect your current standings.

This process may seem intimidating and difficult so consider working closely with an estate planning professional who is involved in this aspect of people’s lives on a daily basis. These professionals can prevent you from making common mistakes, help you navigate probate courts, and provide assistance in the complicated documents that make up your estate.

Estate planning now allows you to enjoy your life tomorrow and for years to come. Do not put off estate planning until these documents and directions are more time sensitive or necessary; check estate planning off your to-do list today!

For tips and information regarding retirement plans, contact us.

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About The Author

Kyle Rutten is the digital content manager for Brestel Bucar, a law firm specializing in estate planning and mediation. He has written extensively on elder law, probate, estate taxes, and estate planning. Kyle is passionate about general financial literacy and believes strongly that it is becoming as important as nutrition for modern people.

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