If you’ve ever read T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” you might have wondered why April, not January, is described as “the cruelest month.” Surely, Eliot had his reasons and yet January seems like a strong contender for this dubious honor. After all, it is the coldest month of the year (for those in the northern hemisphere, at least), it marks the start of tax season, it is the only month that, for many, inevitably begins with a hangover, and it signals that time that people worldwide make ambitious promises they almost surely won’t keep. Yes, we mean New Year’s resolutions. Let this year be different and instead of committing to flossing daily, losing twenty pounds, or cutting out dessert, resolve to get your estate plan drafted and do yourself the favor of setting a goal that is both essential and realistic.
If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that nobody can take health and well-being for granted. This is one of the many reasons that all adults, not just the sick and aging, need an estate plan. After all, a well-designed plan does not just organize the distribution of your assets in the event of your passing, but protects your children and loved ones, helps you plan for retirement, ensures you receive proper healthcare should you suffer incapacitating injury, and guarantees you access to long-term care for when you need it in your golden years (among a range of other functions).
Setting up an estate plan is easier than you think and attending to the task probably does more for you and your family’s well-being than skipping dessert for a few weeks. Below are the three steps you need to take to get started.
Building an Estate Plan in Three Steps
1. Inventory Your Life
Before you can organize your assets you need to know what they are. This means listing everything you own, big and small. Naturally, properties, financial accounts, and vehicles top the list but don’t forget those items that are unique to you such as your meticulously curated Instagram account or your stunning set of Magic, the Gathering cards. At this stage, you should also make note of dependants, special causes you wish to support, and any passwords or log-ins a person might need in the event of your death.
2. Talk to Your Family
Before pens can hit paper in the estate planning process, you need to sit down with your family (or gather everyone over Zoom) and address such questions as who among your loved ones is best-suited to make medical decisions on your behalf? Who do you most trust to make the delicate decisions required of an executor? Who might be an appropriate guardian to any minor children of aging parents or grandparents? Who will you designate as beneficiaries? Should you worry about a loved one’s financial management, and what protections might you institute and how will you talk to the loved ones about these decisions?
3. Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
With a list of your assets in hand and ideas drafted concerning how you and your family will navigate the delicate decisions inherent in the process, the final step is to reach out to a trusted attorney who will walk you through the plan structure best-suited to your unique situation and goals. All you need to do is pick up the phone and before you know it—and perhaps for the first time in your life—your New Year’s resolution will be complete and you’ll still have most of the year to attend to other goals.
Sound good? Give us a call!
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell