Advanced Planning 101
Avoiding mistakes that can derail your efforts
Broadly speaking, there are several stages to managing your estate. Much of it has to do with paper and, increasingly, digital documents. To have an estate plan, it must get written down. It cannot be just in your head. Nor is it something to put off. Sadly, we all know those who have died unexpectedly and left a big mess for their heirs to handle.
Stage 1: Out of Your Mind
You have worked hard and maybe have family or others you want to provide for in the case of your untimely demise. You probably have some thoughts about who should get what. If you have worked with an attorney (and I am not one), you know that there is more to it than just making a will. There can be a lot of decisions to make, and information to gather. It has to go from your head, onto paper. This is where many people get bogged down. The hardest parts are deciding whom to name for various roles and specifying your funeral wishes. (see our post, “Choosing Whom To Trust”)
Stage 2: Been there, done that
Maybe you have already created detailed instructions for your heirs. Good for you! How long has it been since you last updated them? Have there been any changes in your life: marriage, divorce, children, property, family feuds(!), or disability of an executor perhaps? At Paper Tigress, we prompt our clients to review and update estate documents and their family roadmap on a periodic basis. Most attorneys recommend a quick review every 3-5 years. You may not know what changes will affect your plan. Sometimes the law has changed as well.
Many people avoid a visit to their attorney, just like they avoid their medical doctor’s office. Neither is the healthiest move. Yes, there may be some cost involved, but in the long run it can save you or your heirs a lot!
Stage 3: Gone, but not forgotten
One of the best gifts you can give on your death is to ease the burden on your executor by making the job as clear and concise as possible. Depending on the number of assets and liabilities a person has when they pass, this job can require an overwhelming amount of paperwork and correspondence. It often falls on an already grieving family member, who may have difficulty overcoming a very natural reluctance to put it off. Unfortunately, there are deadlines. Making the job simple helps tremendously.
TO DO: Steps to take now