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New Year’s Resolutions

As we ring in a new year it is a common time to take stock on what was accomplished over the previous year. Looking back at 2020, it is definitely a year to focus on your “wins” and what you were able to make happen. Maybe you picked up new hobbies, learned new skills, or worked on projects that you previously put off. Hopefully, you were able to find a balance in your life and a way to remain connected with loved ones, even virtually. And maybe you have thought about what you are going to do in the year to come, when it is safer to do so.

Making resolutions and goal setting at the beginning of the year can help you map out what you would like your year to look like and create a list of what you would like to achieve. But this can prove to be a daunting task, especially when looking at it in the frame of not knowing how the global pandemic will impact 2021. So, getting organized is key.  As you lay out all the possibilities, consider choosing to work on only a few at a time. Having too many goals can be difficult or overwhelming and make it more likely that you burn out on achieving resolutions mid-February, rather than continue to work towards them. Also forming a plan on how to reasonably achieve your goals, gathering information and resources, and breaking down larger goals into smaller achievements may lead to greater likelihood of success.

One goal you could consider working on this year is making sure you have an up to date estate plan in place. This can help you feel at ease, and save your loved one’s frustration, time, and money later down the road. And, when you get organized and use resources like experienced estate planning attorneys to help you plan, it can make accomplishing this resolution before the end of the year a lot easier. 

In getting organized, we recommend you start with the basics. First, who would you have involved in your plan. This can include:

  • Make a list of who you would trust to take care of you and loved ones. Knowing the people you would turn to can make estate planning easier because that tells us who you would trust to make medical or financial decisions for you if you could no longer make them yourself. Or who you would trust to take care of your minor children if you could not. Also, who to work with – CPAs, Accountants, Financial Advisors – throughout planning.
  • Consider who would you like to see inherit when you are gone. This may be a very simple answer, your spouse then kids. But knowing who your loved ones actually are, can help protect them further. For instance, are all your children fiscally responsible, or would one have their inheritance spent in a month? Do you have a loved one with disabilities who would need more protections in place? Answering questions like these can help you plan become personalized to your situation and offer your loved ones the most protections while ensuring the plan still works.

Then, look at what possessions would be involved in your plan:

  • Create a list of your banking, investment, and retirement accounts. This makes it easier to know what assets have to be planned for and help your loved ones down the road. Having the list would make it so they do not have to go on a wild goose chase contacting different institutions to see if you still had an account with them and not miss out on inheriting what you intended them to inherit because they did not know about it.
  • Consider what tangible valuables you have and who you would like them to go to. Having a list of who you would like certain family heirlooms to go to could save your family from fighting down the road. Or, if you do not mind where anything ends up after you are gone, letting your family know so they do not feel guilty giving something away can ease their minds.

Then, consider the “when’s” of your plan.

  • When would you like to have your plan created by? Obviously, the sooner you start, the sooner you have a plan in place that can work for you when you need it. Having the plan (and documents that come along with it) in place can save your family from scrambling if you end up hospitalized on who is allowed to make medical choices for you and tend to your financials. It can make the transition easier on loved ones if you were to become disabled and need someone to step in and act.
  • When should your plan be updated? This can differ from person to person but generally major changes in your life can facilitate an update. If you have gotten married and had children since the last time you looked at your plan, it would be time for an update to reflect who you would like to inherit. If there has been a change in your health status it might be time to look at your plan and see if the correct people are in place. Furthermore, for this year, we are heading into a new administration with probable changes to estate and gift taxes and this may be a good time to update any plans to make sure they will work how you intend them to under new regulations.

Finally, it is important to look at why you are planning in the first place. Having this in mind can ease some of the difficult conversations and considerations that come along with estate planning. We understand not everyone is comfortable with all aspects of it. But keeping in mind what you are trying to accomplish – planning so your loved ones know your wishes, ensuring you have someone named to take care of your minor children, or making sure your loved ones do not have to go through the time and expense of the probate process – can keep you on track for creating an estate plan that works.

An estate plan starts with sound education and organization. Looking at the list above may be overwhelming, but its more than likely you already know most of the answers and just need the right resources to implement them. We offer a free initial consultation to learn more about our process, how it can help you, be personalized to you, and how it can protect your loved ones.

If you want to start your planning, you can reach us at (248) 409-0256.