Okay, we have to own up to something. Officially, October 16-22, 2023 is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, but we are so passionate about providing peace of mind to our clients that we extended this important week into a whole month. It’s tough to convey all the value an estate plan brings you and your family in just one week, so we’ve decided to use the entire month of October to remind everyone of the importance of creating or maintaining an estate plan.
If you already have a plan in place, great job! You’re enjoying the comfort of knowing you and your family are protected. If it’s been a few years since you signed your documents, October is the perfect time to have your plan reviewed to make sure everything is still in order.
Now if you don’t have a plan already, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that at least half of Americans do not have an estate plan. The good news is that it’s never too late to put one in place – and it’s not nearly as difficult or expensive as you may have heard.
Let’s start with the basics
At a minimum, your estate plan should include a will (or perhaps a living trust), durable power of attorney, medical directive, power of attorney for healthcare, and a HIPAA release. Depending on your needs, you may choose to add more to your plan, like a special needs trust, charitable trust, or asset protection trust. But at the very least you should have the documents in the preceding sentence.
Some people choose a living trust instead of a will as the basis of their plan, especially if they want to maintain the privacy of their estate and have title to their assets pass without the need for the probate process. The living trust plan is a little more expensive up front, but it can save much of the added time and cost of probate down the road. That said, a will is still the tried and true method of distributing the assets of your estate to loved ones, and it is very simple to create.
Everyone needs an estate plan
It’s a common misconception that only elderly people need estate plans. To the contrary, and as we mentioned in the last section, everyone should have a basic plan in place. You see, your estate plan is not just about distributing assets when you pass. Maybe most importantly, your plan protects you and your loved ones in the event of your unexpected incapacity. Without a plan, your family could incur unnecessary expense and waste time wrestling with hospitals, banks, and other institutions trying to manage your health and assets during an incapacitation.
And then there are other questions you should ask yourself. Who will take care of my children in my absence? Will my beloved pet have the care it needs when I’m gone? Will my children have the resources to attend college or start a career? How can I protect inherited assets from creditors? Will my spouse with special needs have the care they require?
The answer to all of these questions – and more – is to create an estate plan.
What if I don’t have an estate plan?
If you happen to pass unexpectedly without having an estate plan, the state will dictate where your assets go – and often it is not how you would have wanted them to be distributed. Not to mention you will have created a burden on your loved ones, having to deal with financial institutions and other entities to get your assets retitled under a court’s supervision. It can be a much longer and more costly process than standard probate.
And if you’re suddenly incapacitated by accident or illness without an estate plan, your loved ones will be left to make difficult decisions about your health or finances without your input.
Can I afford not to have an estate plan?
Another common misconception is that estate plans are expensive. While comprehensive plans for wealthy individuals that include advanced tax-avoidance and asset protection strategies can be expensive, a simple plan with the basic documents is actually very affordable, especially when considering the cost of not having a plan in place when you need it.
But here’s another way to look at it. Over 90% of Americans have health insurance. Most of us wouldn’t dream of living our lives without it. We pay expensive monthly premiums, oftentimes only using our policies for checkups and prescription medication. But when we need emergency medical attention, that insurance is there to help cover what might be overwhelmingly expensive bills.
An estate plan serves a similar function. It safeguards us and our families during unforeseen events just like insurance. Better yet, for a minimal up-front cost – not monthly premiums that continue for years – you and your loved ones will be protected.
The best part – October saves you money!
As we mentioned earlier, we love providing peace of mind to our clients. And for the month of October, we’re making that comfort even more affordable.
If you book a consultation with us any time during the month of October, we’ll discount the cost of whatever plan you choose by 20%. And if you’re active military, a military veteran, or a current or former first responder, we’ll take off an additional 15%. This is why October is simply the best time to get your plan in place and start resting easy. Click here to book your appointment today.