Five Reasons to Start Estate Planning TODAY
If you need to ask when you should start writing your will and other documents, most estate planning experts will tell you the same thing: you should have started yesterday! It doesn’t matter if you’re a young newlywed with no children, a middle-aged divorcee, or a senior citizen with a huge family—a solid estate plan is absolutely essential to your future. There are several important reasons why youngsters and old folks alike should start Estate Planning A-S-A-P.
1) Remember that anything can happen.
No one wants to believe they will die unexpectedly. When you hear about a young person suddenly passing away after an accident or a rare illness, it may seem very removed from your life—a news story rather than a harsh reality. The fact is, tragedy can strike when you least expect it. If such a thing should happen to you, what would you leave behind for your family and friends? An estate plan gives you control in the face of unexpected situations.
2) Don’t leave unfinished business.
When a person passes away without an estate plan, they leave behind a host of unfulfilled goals. Have you thought about your estate planning goals, financial or otherwise? Maybe you want to name a guardian for your children, specify medical treatments according to your beliefs, or give instructions for your burial. Maybe you just want to make sure your assets and property are passed on to your loved ones in a very specific way. Without an estate plan, your wishes may never be known.
3) Prevent family feuds.
It’s safe to assume that when you pass away, you don’t want your family fighting over your assets. It’s not the legacy most people want to leave behind. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that they will resolve everything amongst themselves in a fair and appropriate way. The earlier you start estate planning, the more time you’ll have to make sure your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes.
4) Account for life events.
Most estate planning experts can’t emphasize enough the importance of starting right away, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-time event. Estate planning, like life, is an ongoing process. Your goals and priorities will change in light of marriage, divorce, death, birth, adoption, and so on. For example, if you divorced and started seeing someone new, you may want certain assets to go to your current partner instead of your ex-spouse. If you start estate planning early, you won’t have to play so much catch-up—you’ll have a solid foundation to make updates and improvements as your life changes.
5) Protect your children and surviving family.
Perhaps the biggest reason to start estate planning is to protect your children and your family. It’s not pleasant to think about where your children will go if you should pass away before they turn 18. In case it does happen, you can control where they end up by naming a guardian, and you can safeguard their interests from a financial standpoint with a variety of estate planning tools. When you use the right methods, you can also help your family save money on taxes and other costs, maximizing the assets and property you leave behind for their benefit.
It’s time to get started! A knowledgeable lawyer can help make your estate plan as strong as it can possibly be. Contact the estate planning attorneys at Estate & Long-Term Care Group for personalized guidance. We can advise you on the best legal strategies, save you money, and leave you with peace of mind about the future.
Understanding the Dangers of DIY Estate Planning
The “do-it-yourself” approach has been cropping up all over social media in recent years, usually presented as hobbies and money-saving hacks. The fun side of DIY may look like hand-knitted scarves, homemade soaps, and upcycled clothing, but the other side is riddled with botched plumbing jobs and sketchy electrical work. In other words, there are some things you should never DIY—and estate planning is one of them.
The first thing to understand about DIY estate planning is that, on a simpler level, it’s similar to those home improvement jobs you should never tackle without a professional. For example, a DIY roof repair may seem like a cheap alternative to your local contractor, but it comes with a caveat. If you don’t do the job exactly right, you risk compromising your roof, letting in leaks, and eventually paying for a whole host of other repairs you never expected to need. Because estate planning is not quite so simple, the leaks can be difficult to catch—and the damage can cost your family much more than you ever planned to pay for a good attorney.
You may have heard of online DIY legal services. They provide you with blank legal forms that you can use to create a quick will or other estate planning document. These forms are supposed to be cheap and easy to use, but in reality, they are not. It’s all too easy for a layperson to make a mistake. You might end up misreading the instructions or using the wrong legal terms, causing repercussions you never intended—or you might simply create a document that’s invalid or ineffective. Because estate planning documents typically kick in after your death, you may not even know the extent of your mistakes until it’s too late. Instead, your family and friends will be stuck with the consequences.
Aside from the potential for mistakes, DIY legal forms are one-size-fits-all documents. They don’t take your personal needs, or your unique situation, into account. You may have specific healthcare wishes, children with special needs, or an estate large enough to owe federal estate taxes. An attorney can leverage many different estate planning strategies to accommodate your needs and maximize what you leave behind for your loved ones. You may pay a smaller one-time fee with DIY, but there’s no replacement for the value you get from qualified legal counsel.
Many DIY legal websites are barred from providing legal advice and no website is a member of the Attorney Bar Associations. That’s because their services are really no substitute for those of a knowledgeable attorney. The lawyers at Estate & Long-Term Care Group can create an estate plan that’s perfectly tailored to your circumstances, your wishes, and your goals. Call us to get dedicated support throughout the estate planning process. We will take care to minimize your legal risks, save your loved ones from future stress and expense, and protect the legacy you leave behind.
by Denise Stewart, Attorney at Law, ELTC Law Group
Denise Stewart graduated cum laude from Western Washington University with degrees in Anthropology and French. She graduated from Seattle University School of Law and was admitted to practice law in Washington State in 1999. Since being admitted to practice, Denise has a thriving practice in estate planning, business and elder law. She serves both Idaho and Washington clients with offices in Newport, WA, Bonners Ferry & Sandpoint, ID.