October 19 through October 25th is Trust & Will’s favorite week of the year! Why…? Because it’s National Estate Planning Awareness Week and we are so happy that Estate Planning is getting the recognition it deserves.
At Trust & Will, it’s Estate Planning Awareness Week every week, and that’s because we’re passionate about helping individuals build their legacies. But for the general population, this week is a great time to gain better insights on why Estate Planning is so important, and why it's crucial to set up a Trust or Will sooner than later.
Estate Planning is a crucial aspect of financial wellness, yet it is so often disregarded. In fact, 56 percent of Americans don’t have an updated Estate Plan in place according to the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. That’s more than half of us! So in honor of Estate Planning awareness week, we’re going to:
Debunking Common Estate Planning Myths
So why do the remaining 44 percent of Americans not have an Estate Plan in place? It turns out that there are many misconceptions surrounding Estate Planning. In this article, we’ll share some of the most common statements and questions we hear, and debunk each of them. If you are in the large group of individuals who haven’t set up an Estate Plan yet, we hope this information will help you reconsider.
“I don’t really know what Estate Planning is.”
Estate Planning is the process through which a legal plan is put into place, in case anything were to ever happen to you. You can think of an Estate Plan as a written gameplan for your loved ones. In it, you can designate your beneficiaries, how your assets will be divided, and who will be responsible for handling various aspects of your legacy. Not only will your Estate Plan help ensure your loved ones are cared for long-term, it will help alleviate the stress that comes with dealing with logistics. This will help your loved ones have the proper space to grieve.
“Isn’t Estate Planning just for older people?”
Somehow, Estate Planning has become associated with older generations. Perhaps it’s because we seldom see examples of young people planning their Trusts or Wills in mainstream media. The harsh reality is that accidents and tragedies happen even to the young. Are you a young person and have people that you love and want to protect? Then, you need an Estate Plan. Almost everyone over the age of 18 should plan for the unexpected.
“I thought Estate Planning was only worthwhile for the wealthy.”
Another common misconception is that Estate Planning is only for the wealthy. To the contrary, Estate Planning is a process that isn’t limited to just wealth or assets. For example, your Will could designate the division of sentimental possessions amongst your family members. If anything were to happen, it would be clear who would receive particular items, which will help cut down on confusion and unnecessary conflict. In another example, you could take out a life insurance policy as a part of your Estate Plan and name a beneficiary. This way, you could ensure that your partner or child would be cared for in the case of your absence.
“It’s too complicated and expensive - I’ll get around to it eventually.”
The point of Estate Plans is to protect your legacy in the case that something unexpected were to happen. Many individuals are tempted to delay the process of Estate Planning because they are under the impression that it would be costly, complicated, or time consuming. Companies like Trust & Will have revolutionized the industry in a way that makes Estate Planning accessible to everyone. Trust & Will offers an online service that is quick, easy and affordable, allowing you to set up your Estate Plan in minutes. You can do all of this from the comfort of your own home and can get started with very little information.
“I don’t need a Will because all my assets are co-owned with my partner.”
If you have a partner, then you have all the more reason to get a Trust or Will put into place. Your partner will have the right of survivorship for any co-owned assets, but both of you still need to have a Will. You have no ability to predict which spouse will survive the other. In addition, there are sometimes tragic incidents when something unexpected happens to both partners simultaneously. By having an Estate Plan, you can both ensure that everything ultimately goes to the surviving spouse, or another beneficiary of your choice in case something were to happen to both of you.
“Well I already did my will When I first married. Why would I look at it again?”
Your personal circumstances change with every passing life event. You may be surprised by how often your assets, your wishes, desired beneficiaries, and designations will change over the years. Any additions or changes to your family are especially important times to review your Estate Plan to ensure it stays up-to-date. We suggest setting a reminder for yourself to review your Trust or Will every three to five years.
10 Estate Planning Tips from the Pros
In the spirit of Estate Planning Awareness Week, we also wanted to share some top Estate Planning tips to help you get started. These are brought to you by our Head of Legal, Patrick Hicks:
Take an inventory of your tangible and intangible belongings. People often think Estate Planning is all about liquid assets, which are included. But also make sure you take stock of your physical belongings and sentimental valuables.
Think about what is needed to take care of your family’s needs. Create a list of all of your family’s needs, including financial, healthcare, education, and childcare needs. When putting your Trust or Will into place, be sure to designate how these needs will be covered.
Review your beneficiaries on a regular basis. With every life event, your beneficiaries can change. Common events that will cause beneficiary changes or additions include births, deaths, marriage, and divorce. It’s important to update your beneficiaries as soon as possible to ensure that everyone you care for will be covered by your plan.
Look up the estate tax laws in your state. Estate tax is the taxation on the property being transferred from you to a beneficiary as a part of your Estate Plan. Although you can’t necessarily avoid estate tax, there are ways in which it could be reduced. Be sure to consult your tax professional.
Set a calendar reminder to update your Estate Plan. In addition to updating your beneficiaries, there are many aspects of your Estate Plan that will change and shift as life goes on. This includes your inventory of assets and even your desire of how to divide up your assets. Family needs are also another major area that changes often. It’s helpful to set up a regular calendar notification to remind you to review and update your Estate Plan.
Consider a plan for long-term care. An Estate Plan is also important in the case that you require long-term health care and are not able to make your own decisions. You can make arrangements to ensure that your long-term health care costs are covered, as well as provide any special instructions to your caregivers. This will help relieve some burden from your loved ones. [Ready to set up your health care documents so that your end-of-life wishes are clarified? Trust & Will has you covered]
Discuss probate laws with your attorney. Probate laws are different in every state and county, and it’s important to be aware. Probate is the process through which a Will is vetted or “proved” in a court of law. Once the Will is proved, then your executor can start taking actions as instructed in your Estate Plan. Note that setting up a Trust is a great way to avoid the probate process all together.
Include plans for funeral expenses and final arrangement wishes. When a family is grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be painstaking to arrange for a funeral and carry out final wishes. Although this is necessary, you can really show your love for your family and dear ones by including specific plans to cover funeral expenses and how you’d like your final wishes carried out. This will provide your loved ones with a game plan which can help them avoid any complicated guesswork or paying for expenses.
If you own your own business, then you should also include instructions for how your business will be handed over. In other words, this is your succession plan. Designate who will be the executor of your business, and who will have control over business decisions and assets.
Keep your documents organized. Along with your Estate Plan will come many associated documents and statements that are meant to assist your executors in carrying out your wishes. You’ll want to keep your documents in a safe, secure place, and you’ll want to keep them neatly organized. That way, your loved ones will be able to easily locate information as necessary.
No one really wants to spend time thinking about life after they are gone. Perhaps that is the primary reason why many of us procrastinate on setting up an Estate Plan. However, it can be incredibly powerful to shift your mindset surrounding Trusts and Wills. They’re not just for the elderly; they’re not just for the wealthy. They are the ultimate way you can convey your love and care to those closest to you. It will also give you a sense of control and the feeling of peace of mind.
If anything were to ever happen to you, your loved ones will be so relieved to find out that you had a plan put into place to protect them. Instead of being stuck in a logistical nightmare, they’ll have the sacred space to celebrate your life and carry out your legacy.
In the spirit of Estate Planning Awareness Week, are you ready to take control of your future and set up an Estate Plan? It’s easy, secure, and can all be done online from the comfort of your home. Create your Will or set up your Trust, today!