estate planning

The Evolving Process of An Estate Plan

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Socrates once said, “death is a very narrow theme, but it reaches a wide audience.”  Our inevitable demise is not something we like to think about; however, it’s part of the human experience.   As our lives evolve and change, so must our estate plans to ensure our intentions and needs are met.    

You may have executed your last will,  trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxy, and funeral plans and feel a sense of accomplishment, and you should. However, estate planning is an evolving process.    You worked hard all your life to save and care for your family. An estate plan checkup from time to time and certainly every few years will ensure your plan is on track and keeps up within a few years or if you have changed your life circumstances. 

Those include changing your financial circumstances from divorce to opening a new business, an inheritance, a new financial venture, or an investment. You may want to update your plan to consider those recent changes.   Estate planning is a necessary means of protecting your financial legacy, providing for loved ones, reducing taxes, and preventing unnecessary expenses; says a recent article from The Seattle Times, “Estate planning needs vary at every stage of your life.” The reasons for an estate plan change depending on your stage of life. However, no matter your income, you need an estate plan.  Even if you are single, you need an estate plan.

There are certain events during life known as “trigger points,” sparking reminders to either create an estate plan or update an existing one.

Welcoming a new member of the family. Estate planning often starts when a child is welcomed into the family or when someone marries. An estate planning attorney can provide you with options based on your specific situation so your will reflects your wishes and the laws of your state. We will guide you through other parts of the plan.

Are you happy with your guardians?  Addressing your children’s needs is one of the essential issues you’ll face in estate planning. You want to ensure that the proper guardians are named and that your children do not receive their entire inheritance before a specific time.

Once you have an estate plan in place, you’ll know that you and your loved ones are protected with a legal safety net.

Midlife challenges. The sandwich generation, typically people in their 40s and 50s, are busy raising children and helping parents as they age. Having a power of attorney for financial and medical matters is essential for an adult child involved in their parent’s healthcare if the child needs to be able to speak with physicians. Parents also need health care directives addressing end-of-life care so loved ones know their wishes.

Parents will do their children a favor by telling them what they want and backing up their wishes with the appropriate legal documents. This spares the children from figuring out “what mom wanted” or fighting over “what dad meant.”

Before and after retirement. The years before and after retirement often crop up when health issues crop up. Retirement is the right time to review estate planning documents and review named beneficiaries. The people you named ten, or even five, years ago to handle your estate may no longer be in your life. You may have new grandchildren you want to provide for. All of these matters need to be reviewed with an experienced estate planning attorney to be sure they reflect your wishes.

Estate planning is also life planning.

Have you updated your healthcare proxy, living will, and control appointment so your remains? Are you happy with your updated health care proxies and living wills to provide for, in some instances, the ability to communicate with medical professionals electronically via zoom or other FaceTime?  Did you talk to your loved ones about your long-term insurance coverage?  Do your children know your plan if you are disabled or homebound? Have you made a plan and discussed it with your children if you become incapacitated.?  Did you update your power of attorney to cover circumstances requiring a child to assume a more prominent role in your care?

Updating an estate plan throughout the ups and downs of life ensures you’ll be able to enjoy the retirement you worked for and focus your attention on the present.

Consider a review under the following circumstances:

  • Increases or decreases in family assets
  • Relocation to or purchase of a second home in a different state
  • Death, illness, or disability of a family member, beneficiary, guardian, or named trustee or executor
  • Birth or Adoption of a child
  • Changes in law
  • Marriage or divorce of a beneficiary 
  • Heath concerns, addition, special needs, or other issues that may affect a family member
  • Changes of assets, retitling of assets, change of ownership form

Reference: The Seattle Times (Oct. 17, 2022) “Estate planning needs vary at every stage of your life.”

Feel free to call us at 212-661-3600 or book a consultation call to review your estate plan and explain our process.

Additional Reading

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