The estate planning that you do (or don’t do) will leave a lasting impression upon your loved ones. Will they love you for it? Planning your estate, the extent of your planning, and the thoughtfulness by which you plan your estate is an extension of who you are. It's your last gift to the people you love. Estates that are well planned and carefully considered are a blessing.
On the other hand, estates that are not well planned and not well considered – or not planned at all – can be a curse for your loved ones. The mess you leave behind with all the loose ends that are untied is a burden no one wants to face, especially while grieving your death.
We see the best and the worst of it. Nothing triggers the dysfunction of a family (and we all have some dysfunction in our families), like a lack of estate planning, old estate planning that was never updated or shoddy estate planning that is incomplete, ill-conceived and not well thought out.
Most of us don’t really want to spend a lot of time thinking about our own deaths, but death is inevitable. It’s better to face the inevitable consequence of our demise and to eliminate that nagging feeling that we should be doing something. Because we should be doing something about it! At least, then, we can buy some peace of mind.
Estate Planning allows us to determine for ourselves who will handle our estates, who will raise our children, who will receive our assets and how they will be managed. Estate Planning includes putting in place mechanisms for the management of our affairs and necessary decision-making if we become incapacitated and unable to manage our own affairs while we are still living. Doing estate planning allows us control of the management of our estates to:
- Choose who will handle the estate;
- Choose who will receive the assets of the estate;
- Leave detailed instructions for how the estate will be handled;
- Streamline the administration of the estate, saving time and cost and frustrations for loved ones;
- Protect the assets left to loved ones; and
- Minimize or even avoid altogether state inheritance taxes and federal estate taxes.
Estate planning involves some combination of Wills, and possibly Trusts, together with Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, and other instruments as appropriate in the given circumstances. A good estate planning attorney doesn’t just prepare the documents. He or she should be able to help you to understand the issues, the options and to craft a plan that takes into account all the little quirks and unique characteristics of your family and estate.
A good estate planning attorney will also help you implement your plan to insure that it “works” the way you intend. Estate planning can be highly technical and very detail orientated, but a good estate planning attorney can break it down into manageable segments and walk you through the details that need to be considered and simplify the technical aspects of it.
As difficult as estate planning may seem, the difficulties that are left behind for loved ones from a lack of estate planning is something they won’t be able to avoid if you haven’t tackled it during your life. Struggling with administrative burdens and issues is not the legacy most people want to leave their loved ones. A little planning ahead on your part can make the administration of your estate much easier for the people you love.
Your loved ones will love you all the more for it! Don’t leave a mess for them that will cloud their memories of you. Leave them a legacy they can smile about.
For more articles on estate planning topics, see the Fox Valley Estate Planning Blog. For articles related to family law matters, visit Drendel & Jansons Family Law Blog. For additional articles on various topics of law, visit the general Drendel & Jansons Law Group Blog. For various legal resources, visit the Drendel & Jansons Resource Page.
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