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Securing Your Legacy: Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning

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Legacy disputes have traditionally been contentious. A number of movies have discussed legacy/estate planning as well. While this is true to a certain extent, estate planning goes far beyond this! As you are away, you need to take this step to ensure everything runs smoothly for your family. 

Over the course of your life, you have worked hard to build assets and investments. If you suddenly passed away, what would happen to these assets or investments? What if these assets/investments end up in the wrong hands? Will your charity continue to thrive as it did when you were around? 

Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at estate planning Do’s & Don’ts:

The 5 do’s!

  • Do Start Early:

Initiate your estate planning as soon as possible. Procrastination can lead to unnecessary complications and potential conflicts. Starting early allows you to carefully consider your options, make informed decisions, and make any necessary adjustments along the way.

  • Do Draft a Will:

Creating a well-crafted and legally valid will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. Clearly state your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the appointment of guardians for minor children. Engage the services of a qualified attorney to ensure your will meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your intentions.

  • Do Establish Powers of Attorney:

Appointing a trusted individual as your power of attorney (POA) is crucial. Designate someone you trust implicitly to make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Ensure they are aware of your wishes and have open lines of communication to avoid potential conflicts.

  • Do Consider a Living Trust:

In addition to a will, consider setting up a living trust. A living trust allows you to transfer assets to a trust during your lifetime and designate a successor trustee to manage those assets in the event of your incapacity or death. This can help avoid probate, maintain privacy, and streamline asset distribution.

Do Review and Update Regularly:

Life is dynamic, and circumstances change over time. Regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect major life events such as marriage, divorce, births, deaths, or significant changes in your financial situation. Periodic reviews ensure your plan remains current and aligned with your goals.

The 5 Dont’s

  • Don’t DIY Without Professional Guidance:

Although there are DIY estate planning resources available, it’s generally advisable to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. They have the expertise to navigate complex legal requirements, minimize tax implications, and tailor your plan to your specific needs and goals.

  • Don’t Forget Beneficiary Designations:

Many assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries. Ensure these designations are up to date and aligned with your overall estate plan. Failing to review and update beneficiary designations can lead to unintended consequences and conflicts.

  • Don’t Neglect Incapacity Planning:

Estate planning isn’t just about distributing assets after death. It also involves preparing for potential incapacitation. Create documents like a durable power of attorney for financial matters and a healthcare proxy or advance healthcare directive to ensure your wishes are honored if you are unable to make decisions on your own.

  • Don’t Overlook Digital Assets:

In the digital age, it’s important to account for your digital assets, including online accounts, social media profiles, and digital property. Consider including provisions in your estate plan that address the management and transfer of these assets, as well as instructions for handling your digital presence after your passing.

  • Don’t Keep Your Estate Plan a Secret:

Communicate your estate plan to your loved ones, especially the executor of your will and your appointed powers of attorney. Provide them with relevant information, such as the location of important documents, account details, and contact information for your attorney. Open communication can help avoid confusion, disputes, and delays during the administration of your estate.