This blog post is from a January 2018 post on my previous website.
A client called the office today and asked about putting together an estate plan for her family. It was a New Year's resolution, she told me. It's something she had been meaning to do for a long time.
She isn't alone. Many people have "get a will" somewhere deep on their to-do list. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2016, only about 44% of American adults have an estate plan in place. An ABCNews poll found that even fewer American adults have a healthcare directive or similar document. Perhaps it's time to turn this resolution into a reality, because these documents can go a long way to protect your family.
For a single adult without much in the way of assets, basic planning for 2018 can be as simple as preparing an advance directive for healthcare and a limited power of attorney. These basic documents will allow a friend or loved one to act as your agent for medical decisions and legal matters if you were to be hurt in an accident or became unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself.
For parents with minor children, your 2018 goal may be planning what would happen if you were unable to care for your child. In addition to the advance directive for healthcare and power of attorney, important documents for parents can include a simple will with a guardianship nomination and testamentary trust. For parents of children with special needs, specialized trust structures should be established to maximize eligibility for certain benefits.
For someone with an estate plan already in place, your 2018 estate planning goal may be reviewing changes that have occurred in 2017 and ensuring that your plan continues to match your priorities and wishes. Did you experience a big change in your assets by inheritance, buying or selling a business, or purchasing a property? Did your family structure change because of births, deaths, adoptions, or divorces? Do the agents you previously identified in advance directive and power of attorney documents continue to be the right people to make decisions for you if needed? Updating your documents with new and relevant information is an important step in making sure your estate plan still does its job.
Make 2018 the year you cross estate planning off your to-do list.