Estate planning is important, even if you don’t think you have enough assets for it to matter. It’s not only about your property and investments, but about who has control of your future and your assets after your death.
It’s natural to put off thinking about this, but it pays to get your estate plan in order as soon as possible. Some people put off estate planning because their financial or family situation is changing. There’s no reason to wait, however. Updating your will is simple and inexpensive, as is changing your plan to include new circumstances as soon as they’re finalized.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning goes beyond just having a last will and testament. There are a number of documents that comprise a comprehensive estate plan. This is true no matter your family or financial situation. Each of these documents is meant to help you live your final years according to your own wishes and help your family avoid trouble after your death.
What Are the Benefits of Estate Planning?
These are just a few of the reasons the American Bar Association recommends estate planning for everyone:
- Control: Forming your own estate plan means that you get to make the choices that are best for you and your family. Without a properly prepared estate plan, judges and courts will be left to make decisions according to the law rather than what is necessarily your family’s best interest.
- Determining your own future: An estate plan also helps you deal with the reality that you could become incapacitated and no longer able to make decisions about your own care. Included in a comprehensive estate plan are durable powers of attorney and living wills that allow you to choose who can make medical decisions on your part and allow you to make some decisions in advance.
- Ensuring your family’s future: If your children are under 18 or will require lifelong care, it’s important to name caretakers for them in your estate plan. Without this document, the court will decide who will take care of them and make the important decisions for them. A lawyer can even help you set up a trust fund to ensure your loved one is taken care of.
- Saving money: Estate planning saves you money and helps your family members keep more of your assets if you pass away. Planning in advance costs only minimal lawyer’s fees and filing fees. Without a plan, court costs and lawyer’s fees to settle an estate can skyrocket. You can also minimize taxes with proper estate planning, so hiring a financial adviser to help you plan for the future is often a good idea.
- Helping your family: By pre-planning what will happen after your death, you can help your family and friends minimize the stress that often comes with a loved one’s death. You may want to consider planning your funeral arrangements and burial. Many funeral homes and cemeteries allow you to prepay for arrangements and burial plots.
Talking to an experienced lawyer is the best way to begin with your estate plan. A financial planner can also be a good ally during this process. The estate planning process can seem complicated from the outside, but ensuring these documents are in order is one of the best things you can do to protect your assets and your family’s future.