Are you in a quandary about what gifts to give your loved ones this Christmas? I have one that is always the right color, fits perfectly and is always fashionable regardless of their age or gender. What is it, you ask?
Your up-to-date and comprehensive estate plan, what else?
Who wants to think morbid thoughts, especially thoughts about when you are no longer around? Even so, with some effort and planning, you can give your family the ultimate gift: peace of mind.
The Street’s recent article, titled “The best holiday gift for your family: estate planning,” gives us a quick checklist of estate planning essentials.
While I recommend reading the original article, here are some key points to ponder:
Wills and Trusts. These legal documents control the distribution of your estate after you are gone. In most states, you can also use them to appoint a legal guardian for your minor children if they are ever orphaned.
Without a legally enforcable will your assets might be divided by the probate court according to state law, rather than how you would want. This is called dying “intestate” and it can create problems for your heirs, and it can be a long and expensive process in some jurisdictions.
Living Trusts. Some people prefer creating a living trust. This is a legal document into which your "retitle" your assets for administration during your lifetime. You can name yourself as the trustee and even appoint someone else in the event you become incapacitated.
When you die, the assets are transferred to your beneficiaries as you provide without a detour through probate. Another benefit to a living trust is that it is much more difficult to challenge by a disgruntled family member. Also, since a living trust is not subject to probate and is, therefore, not made part of the public record. Accordingly, your privacy is protected.
Living Wills. If you become seriously ill and are unable to make decisions for yourself at the end of your life, you will be glad you have a living will. This, along with a health care directive and power of attorney, will make sure your medical care is as you wish.
Durable Power of Attorney. Estate planning attorneys will advise you to have a trusted individual who can handle your finances and property if are disabled and are unable to take care of your own affairs. The basic matters include filing your tax return. No, you do not get out of that patriotic chore just because you are legally disabled.
Life Insurance. If you own a home with a substantial mortgage and have young children, then you absolutely must ensure that you have enough life insurance to pay for their financial security without you.
Crucial documents. The original article also advises that you make sure your spouse, family, and estate planning attorney know the location of the documents they need to administer your estate according to your wishes.
So be jolly this holiday season, and take these important, practical steps to make sure your estate passes easily to the next generation when needed.
If, no when, something untoward happens to you, then you will have given them the gift of "estate planning peace of mind."
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: The Street (December 4, 2014) “The best holiday gift for your family: estate planning”