Estate Planning Awareness Week 2019
In September of 2008, Congressional leaders passed House Resolution 1499 declaring the third week in October as “National Estate Planning Awareness Week.” Resolution 1499 estimated over 120,000,000 Americans did not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death.
More recently a 2019 survey, carried out by Caring.com, found 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust, despite the fact that 76% of the surveyed adults viewed them as important. Many said this was due to procrastination, but others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets. Either way, Estate Planning Awareness Week provides an opportunity to think of where your current plan is at, if you have one, and how making or updating your plan could benefit you or more accurately reflect your wishes.
Why should you have an estate plan?
An estate plan can provide significant peace of mind by ensuring your assets are protected, plans are in place in the event you become ill, and your property is passed down according to your wishes.
What key topics should you consider?
- Do you have a trust or a will? If you do not have these documents, state law will determine who will inherit your property—and therefore, it may not occur in the way you would have chosen. Also, someone appointed by the court, instead of a trusted person of your choosing, will oversee caring for any children or pets. Spelling out your wishes in a will or trust will help prevent unnecessary confusion, anxiety, and expense for family members when you are gone.
- Have the proper powers of attorney been prepared? A financial power of attorney will allow you to designate an individual to make financial and property decisions for you should you become unable to handle your own affairs. A medical power of attorney enables you to designate a person you trust to make medical decisions for you when you are otherwise unable to speak for yourself. You should also ensure HIPAA authorizations are in place with medical professionals to enable your family members to obtain needed information.
- Make sure that you have an advanced directive, also called a living will, which memorializes your wishes concerning your end of life care, such as whether you would like to receive life support if you are in a vegetative state or terminal condition.
- Compile a list of all of your accounts and other important information, including bank and investment accounts, titles to vehicles and homes, insurance information, credit card accounts or loans, digital accounts (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and passwords, Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates, which may be needed to manage your property when you are incapacitated or settle your estate once you are gone. This information should be kept in a safe place and shared only with trusted family members or loved ones.
Consult an estate planning attorney. Resolution 1499 recognized “the implementation of an estate plan starts with sound education and planning,” and then drafting of legal documents. Our office couldn’t agree more, and we encourage you to educate yourself about estate planning. We can help you and your family members create an estate plan tailored to meet your unique needs and carry out your wishes—or help you update a pre-existing estate plan. We can provide family members with guidance and information about the options available to them. And, we can help you put a plan in place that will prevent unnecessary stress, legal expenses and taxes, uneven inheritances, disputes between family members, and delays in passing life savings on to loved ones. In addition, it will provide you and your family members with the peace of mind that comes with knowing there are plans in place for your care if any of you become ill and that your wishes will be honored once you pass away.
For information about
estate planning and how it can benefit you, please contact our office, (248)
409-0256. We offer a free initial consultation to learn more about our process.