Remember how Ebenezer Scrooge learned that money isn’t everything in Dicken’s classic The Christmas Carol? The same is true for estate planning. Creating your estate plan is selfless. Think of it as a way to protect and provide for your loved ones after you die; it’s not just about protecting your cold hard cash. With a good estate plan in place, you can help decrease your family’s stress and uncertainty when times are tough. In this fourth segment of The Legal Side of the Holidays, we’re covering the topic of estate planning and how it can be one of the best presents you’ll ever give to your family.
While estate planning may not be traditionally associated with the winter holidays, the end of the year is a good time to reflect on your situation and plan for the future. Estate planning is a good idea for families at all stages, and it’s particularly important at certain milestones like marriage, having kids, and reaching retirement age. Basic estate planning documents like a Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Living Will allow you to clearly set out your wishes. For families with children, appointing a guardian in case something happens to parents is paramount. Without appointing guardians in advance, children could become wards of the state–a possibility no parent wants for their children. A Will is a simple way to appoint a guardian so your kids will be taken care of in this worst case scenario.
Often, customized gifts are more meaningful to the giver and the receiver, and the same is true with estate plans. You can elect to have your assets go to your spouse, children or parents when you die, but this may not be the best option for everyone. You have the power to create a plan that fits your family’s particular dynamic, using any number of documents with customized provisions. For example, you may want to leave everything to your spouse and have him/her provide for your children and relatives, or you may want to set up individual provisions for your children. Keep in mind that a Will may not cover all your assets, so other documents like Trusts may be necessary; also different types of assets are treated differently under the law (like life insurance and retirement plans) so plan accordingly.
The most important tip to keep in mind is to make estate planning a priority for your family this season. Once an estate plan is in place, you’ll have peace of mind for many holidays to come. To learn more about estate planning, create estate planning documents or find a lawyer, visit the Rocket Lawyer Estate Planning Center.