The holiday season is now officially over, school is back in session, and 2021 is off to the races. As routine sets in, now is a good time to look back on the past year, think about what you may have learned, and set that knowledge in motion to ensure this next year is better. Ask: If this were January 2020 all over again, what would I do? Alongside buying up Tesla, Amazon, and Etsy stock (Etsy? Yes, Etsy), moving to the country, and stockpiling hand sanitizer, finally getting that estate plan in order should be on your list. After all, 2020’s big takeaway was that being prepared is paramount because nobody knows what tomorrow may bring.
Getting Started on a Plan
While your plan’s composition will depend on your personal, family and financial situation, foundational documents always include a Will, Advance Medical Directive, Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney. Whether you go the Trust-Based or Will-Based route will determine whether you sign a Last Will and Testament or a Pour Over Will together with a Revocable Living Trust. If that all sounds like a lot to absorb, it is. But don’t worry; you don’t need to worry about any of it.
An experienced estate planning attorney will do the work of determining the composition best-suited to your needs and goals. They will explain each element and its purpose and will work with your input to ensure your plan is the best possible fit. Instead of thinking about documents, then, you need to think about the following:
1. Your Net Worth
The first step to launching a plan is figuring out what it will include. This means totalling the value of bank and investment accounts, personal property, retirement plans (401ks, IRAs), life insurance benefits, business interests, and real estate and then subtracting the total of your liabilities. As you do so, you should also list any items of sentimental value and make note of passwords to your online accounts.
2. Your Family’s Needs
Step two in the estate planning process is sitting down with loved ones and chatting about needs and goals. This is the time to address such delicate issues as unequal inheritances (and why fair doesn’t always mean equal), sentimental items, retirement goals, and long-term care wishes. It is also the time to determine the people best-suited to serve as executor, medical power of attorney, and financial power of attorney. In having this chat, nothing need be finalized; instead, the goal is simply to get everyone on the same page.
Once you have taken care of these two preliminary steps, the hard work is done. From here, you pass the ball to a qualified, trusted attorney. In conversation with you, they will assess all of the information you have gathered and get to work designing a plan which will you ensure you peace of mind not only for this coming year, but for many years to come.