With the New Year in full swing, it’s time to get going on that long list of things you need to accomplish in 2020…including estate planning. Even if it isn’t at the top of your to-do list—or if it didn’t even make the list at all—estate planning is an important part of protecting yourself and your family from all of the future’s uncertainties. Even though it may be awkward to bring up the topic with your family, you will eventually want to sit down with them and have this conversation…preferably sooner than later.
To keep you on track and focused before you jump into this potentially awkward conversation with your family, here are some questions you will want to address during your estate planning discussion:
• Who will make your medical decisions if you become incapacitated?
• What happens to your home?
• What happens to your retirement funds?
• What happens to your life insurance?
• Who becomes the guardian of your children?
However difficult these questions may be to address, oftentimes the hardest part is figuring out how to start the conversation in an organic way. Here are a few ways to bring up the topic in a way that feels natural:
1. Reference something you read online. An internet article or a news reference may be a great way to start the conversation.
2. Bring your financial planner or estate planning attorney to the house. Introduce him or her to the family and sit down with everyone to start the conversation.
3. Set up a family meeting during a period where there are low stress levels. Don’t do it during special occasions, holidays, or any periods of busy work time. Pick a time that is calm—when everyone is relaxed—to have “the talk.”
Work with your estate planning attorney to prepare your estate plan – having all of this taken care of before you have the talk will help you deliver a better understanding to your family about what it all means. Documents you should consider including in your plan include:
1. Living Trust. A living trust gives you the ability to be in charge of your assets while you are alive. You will name a trustee who will be in charge of your assets in the event you die or are incapacitated. A good trust will name an individual who can distribute your inheritance in the way you wish, such as paying for college, food, and/or a down payment on a house. A good trust can also avoid probate, which can save your loved ones time and frustration.
2. Will. A will will help you name who is responsible for your estate, and who you want to pass your estate to when you die. The will can also name your choice of a guardian for your children.
3. Power of Attorney. If you are incapacitated, you would need someone to pay your mortgage and other bills, and to make sure your kids are well taken care of. A power of attorney will name someone who can manage your finances in the event you cannot.
4. Beneficiary Forms. With the amount of money in your life insurance, you will want beneficiary forms to designate those assets. You do not want to name minors on those forms since they cannot manage the assets until they are 18. Ask your estate planning attorney about how to go about getting your children to benefit from your life insurance and 401K plan, as regulations about this have been changing.
If you need an estate planning attorney, the ESTATE PLANNING LAW GROUP OF GEORGIA, James M. Miskell P.C., can help. In an initial consultation, our lawyers can assess your situation and help you start taking steps to prepare. Reach us via the form below and a member of our estate planning team will be in touch shortly!
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