We are often asked by prospective clients: “Do I need an estate plan?” This is particularly the case for folks under 40 or 50, who just can’t imagine themselves dead or incapacitated. We are also often asked about planning by our clients who have adult children with assets and children of their own. As we all know, we can’t and don’t know the future. Should a premature death or disability occur due to an unexpected injury or illness, having an appropriate plan in place will reduce needless expenses, stress, delays and grief.
So the short answer to this simple question is Yes, you do need an estate plan.
To help you formulate your thoughts on the type of plan you need ask yourself: Do your family and loved ones know what accounts you have, where your financial information is, and what your wishes are? A well-crafted plan will tell them.
Educating oneself about estate planning is the place to begin. Useful information is available on our website (www.norcalplanners.com) and in our Free Estate Planning Guide. To get one, simply call or email us.
Consider what kind of legacy you want to leave for your family. A well-drafted estate plan can reflect your life experiences, values, and wisdom.
Contrary to many assumptions, estate planning isn’t just for wealthy people or those who have a lot of “stuff.” If you have young children or a spouse who is dependent on you financially, you should consider the following steps in creating an estate plan.
- Designate beneficiaries.
- Designate a health care agent to make medical decisions for you if you can’t.
- Review asset titling to ensure that your property passes to your chosen beneficiaries without delay.
- Consider establishing a Trust or a Will.
- Do some tax planning — although the federal estate tax affects only the wealthiest people, there are other many other tax issues.
- Select guardians to care for minor children.
- Plan ahead — an accident can result in an inability to make legal decisions; a durable power of attorney will name someone to act in your place if you are incapacitated.
There are a lot of moving parts in creating an effective estate plan, and the earlier you get started, the more choices you’ll have. Don’t forget that a key part of good planning is to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. We are well aware that there are numerous opportunities to create bargain basement cut-rate estate plans on the Internet and elsewhere. However, as with most things in life, you will get what you pay for. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.