Apr 30, 2020
Erin L. Weber, CFP®, CPFC®
The ever-increasing coronavirus statistics tell the tale. They tug at our heartstrings and challenge our mortality and our readiness. No one can predict when his or her time will come, so whether you are furloughed or working remotely, use this time wisely by contacting an attorney to create a will or estate plan for you and your family.
If you already have a will or an estate plan, and your documents are tucked away safely in your file cabinet, chances are they need updating. Whether a result of a life change or a change of heart pertaining to your legacy provisions or beneficiary designations, updating is important. Scheduling an online telemeeting with your estate-planning attorney is doable to ensure your estate plan and final wishes are complete.
How to Get Started
When we talk about mortality and readiness, we can’t help but think about the current situation. Right now we aren’t around our loved ones, not to protect ourselves, but to protect them. This is the same reason you want to ensure your estate plan is in order and should be a top priority.
Sitting down with a financial planner is the right way to get started because you’ll get an idea of where you are financially, and see how your assets and liabilities stack up. When you’re trying to plan for the future, a planner gives you a broad spectrum of what you have and what to look at in your estate-planning meeting. It’s all there in front of you. I say “planner” (rather than advisor), which most people tend to use interchangeably, but there is a clear distinction between the two.
I am a planner, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner, and I understand your situation as well as what your financial goals and needs are. A financial advisor puts a portfolio together. But how do you know the portfolio is appropriate for you? If he or she is not looking at your planning – buying a house in the next year or your wish to leave your assets to your children or grandchildren – how will they know how to invest your money properly when they’re not doing the actual planning for you? That’s why it is important for your future to meet with a financial planner.
With A Will You Have The Way
People need a current and updated will to make sure property is distributed according to their wishes. Remember, having a will won’t do you any good if it is not updated. You can meet with an attorney for a simple will if your assets are not extensive. However, if you have assets, multiple homes, and property in different states, you should meet with an estate-planning attorney to put the estate together using a trust. The real value comes with sitting with an attorney, or having a phone conversation, to prevent you from missing or overlooking something, like you might when doing it online.
Similar to meeting with a planner, the attorney will bring up questions you may not think of – and frankly, neither did the computer. With wills, and to avoid probate, it is important to designate your beneficiaries. Furthermore, the beneficiary designations in your retirement plans – IRA, 401(k), 403(b) – your qualified assets, will supersede the beneficiary designations in your will. As planners, when we sit down with clients on an annual basis, we always ask, “Do we need to update the beneficiaries on your account?”
Your Current Plan May Not Be Current At All
For the person who hasn’t looked at their documents in 10 years or so, he or she is in the exact same situation as the person who hasn’t done anything all. It’s not “updating,” it’s more like starting from scratch because things might have changed since that first draft. For the family’s sake, it needs to be accurate. This brings up another point. It’s amazing to me why people think creating a will or a trust is an expensive endeavor, when it’s not. Many people have simple boilerplate documents that do not cost much to produce. But they produce so much when they have them, don’t they?
If you are younger, not married and without children, and you pass away without a will, it can get messy. You have assets and property, and deciding where these things are going to go is difficult. So, the earlier you get your will or trust in place, the better.
Young married couples wanting to start a family should have their guardianship designations in place. You don’t want the court to decide who your children can live with if something were to happen to you both. You will want to make sure your children are going to be with the people you want them to be with. If there is falling out, or a life event causes a change, you will need to update your documents to reflect this change.
Having everything in place is for your loved ones
Designating a person to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so is an essential part of the estate-planning process. Your letter of intent is a simple document left for your executor to explain what you want to happen. Having your Healthcare Power of Attorney in place will ensure your appointed Durable Power of Attorney can act in your behalf if you become incapacitated.
These issues will no longer be yours when you die. If you pass away not having done these things, guess who is in charge of making sure that all of this gets distributed and taxes are paid? Yes, your poor loved ones are left with a burden that can carry on for several years.
So if you care about them, and I know you do, make this a priority and prepare now, while you still can, and spare them the grief. After all, they will already be grieving over you when you pass away. I can help you prepare. Please reach out to me at Hefren-Tillotson today. I would love to talk with you about it.
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