When a loved one passes away, the grieving process is crucial to the survivor(a) physical, mental, and emotional well being. Unfortunately for many, during this vulnerable period, the added stress of administering the decedent’s estates can interfere with and significantly stunt the healing that comes along with healthy grieving. While preparing for your own passing or that of a family member or friend is an uncomfortable undertaking, creating an estate plan has both financial and emotional benefit that cannot be emphasized enough. The good news is that there are many resources available to help people navigate this seemingly daunting task. Here are a few quick tips:
- Do your research. Every state has different rules around how assets are transferred upon death and a family should proactively get to understand these laws and processes. For example, in states that require a probate proceeding, a trust may be a useful planning tool to facilitate the process, resulting in potentially saving thousands of dollars in taxes/fees and months of court appearances and processing time. The internet is a great place to start and sites like rocketlawyer.com have a wealth of information.
- Get help. There are many levels of help options for planning ones estate. From a cost effective standpoint, self-help tools like Rocket Lawyer’s Trusts, Wills and Power of Attorneys are available. For more complex estates, there are professional help options such as Estate Planning attorneys and professional fiduciaries. For example, people can often assign the duties of executor or trustee to a fiduciary such as a bank or attorney. Look into these options and don’t be shy to talk to a professional.
- Plan for the unforeseen. Your estate plans should anticipate unlikely events such as simultaneously passing of spouses, mental capacity issues, and predeceased children. Such circumstances call for naming alternate executor, trustee, and beneficiaries as well as having a power of attorney in place. As unlikely that these scenarios seem, it is good practice to err on the side of over-preparedness.
- Think beyond assets. Estate Plans are not and should not be limited to asset distribution provisions. Rather, these documents should comprehensively contemplate other tough decision points that come up when someone passes away or is incapacitated. For example, matters concerning guardianship, end of life care, and burial plans should be addressed as well.
By taking a proactive approach to estate planning, you are in fact planning for the overall well being of your loved ones by alleviating one of the biggest life stressors resulting from passing or incapacity.