It’s easy to procrastinate on estate planning. It’s an uncomfortable topic that many people would rather not talk about, but families in all stages of life can benefit from having their estate in order with a will and the related documents.
A solid estate plan can offer peace of mind no matter where you’re at in life. If you’re a young family, you’ll find peace in knowing that you’ve designated a guardian for your young children in case something were to happen to you. As an older family, you’ll find comfort in knowing you have stated your wishes regarding your assets and put together an advanced healthcare directive.
Elements included in an estate plan
An estate plan will encompass multiple documents and can evolve over time as your needs change. Some of the elements of a will and estate plan might include:
- Designating an executor to administer your will. Typically, an executor is a trusted family member that will ensure your will is administered according to your wishes.
- Appointing a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death.
- Stating your preferences regarding the distribution of your assets and possessions. You may have beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, but what about the antique cabinet or grandma’s dishes? A will can cover items your life insurance policy won’t.
- Expressing your wishes regarding future healthcare needs with an Advanced Healthcare Directive. You might include a Living Will to state your medical preferences if you were to become incapacitated, and a Durable Power of Attorney that appoints someone to speak on your behalf if you can't.
- Creating a trust to avoid probate and shorten the time it takes to settle the estate.
- Leaving money to a charitable cause.
Without a will, the state decides the distribution of your assets when you die based on the intestate laws, which means they follow a statutory formula to decide who gets what, which may mean your preferences aren't honored. For you to have a say in the distribution of your assets you need to create a will. A will is beneficial even if you don’t have many assets. When you establish a will, you appoint an executor who can resolve payments or bills that may come after your death.
Writing formal documents leaves clear instructions for your future wishes and eliminates any guesswork from family members. It can also make the process of setting your estate easier for surviving family members and help to keep the peace during an otherwise emotional time.