It could be at the top of your New Year's resolution list...or near the bottom, if you're dreading it. "Finally write a will" or "start future planning--will, trust, whatever" might appear on your list every year, without your doing anything about it. That's perfectly normal. Most of us don't relish the idea of setting down our final wishes, even if we've thought about them.
Yet all signs point to the fact that this is something we should take care of without procrastinating any longer. In 2016, the number of celebrities who died in their 50s, 60s and 70s was shocking to most people. Equally surprising, perhaps, was the fact that the musician Prince hadn't created an estate plan before he died unexpectedly. Can you imagine? Well, yes, many of us can. That's the problem.
Four factors to motivate you to tackle estate planning in 2017
- If you have a plan, your financial information will stay private after you die. Your heirs can avoid the court process of probate, which is public. This also helps protect them from the hassle of probate at an emotionally draining time.
- While making your estate plan, you can specify inheritances to the last, tiny detail. Long-term trusts for children or grandchildren can be established, with whatever particulars you wish. Specific items will go to the person they're intended to reach. This means fewer arguments for your heirs.
- Estate plans cover more than just end of life. You can make provisions now for what you'd like to happen in the event you become disabled. This provides peace of mind for all involved.
- In order to create an estate plan, you'll need a detailed list of all your financial accounts, the assets as well as the debts. Once you've done this, you'll reap two bonuses:
- As you're organizing, you can write down information needed to access online accounts (you can even name a "digital fiduciary") so that your heirs don't have to spend time trying to unlock passwords; this applies to financial accounts but also social media, shopping and other digital assets.
- You'll have to in effect do a financial review at this time, which gives you the opportunity to close unused accounts, streamline bill paying or combine accounts.
Writing an estate plan will present you with lots of questions and choices. Having the help of an estate planning attorney will be beneficial to crossing this New Year's resolution off your list.