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Financial Tips

Why You Should Start Estate Planning Today

A man in a blue button-up signs papers.

World Series, Game 7, bottom of the ninth, home team is up by one run — this is the scenario the seasoned home team manager has played out in his head over and over again. For years he has said to himself, “Give me the chance, I’ll be ready with the perfect plan. Just waiting for our time.”

Years to imagine, years to revise strategy. Things change, players come and go, competition gets better, different superstars to manage and compete against. The perfect plan must be reviewed and flexible over time if the goal is to be realized.

You are the manager and your perfect plan is your estate plan.

Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

More than half of American adults do NOT have a will and less than 40% have any kind of estate plan in place. Perhaps these numbers are high because of procrastination, perception that planning is too expensive, doesn’t apply to them and/or no one really likes discussing his own mortality.

However, over the last 18 months or so, COVID increased awareness because we realized any one of us could succumb to it with little warning.

Many had wills written for the first time and others reviewed their existing plans. The pandemic prompted us to consider, “What if?” Fear and the unknown are great motivators that cause us to think about what would happen if…

Your Plan, Your Way

While some think only the very rich or very old need an estate plan, the reality is we all have “stuff”; a car, home, other real estate, bank accounts, investments, life insurance, retirement accounts, furniture, personal possessions, debts, pets… We have people we care about and causes we support. If we die without any plan, what happens? The result will be chaos of some kind which is avoidable with an estate plan.

You want assurance that your assets are given to the people and organizations you care the most about. You control what happens because you plan for it. You provide instructions to ensure your wishes are followed in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Your unique plan is the caring and thoughtful way to let your loved ones know what you want regarding the disposition of your estate. Your plan also addresses how decisions are made about your health care and financial matters if you are unable to make these decisions yourself.

Step Up to the Plate Now

This is a good time to review your plan and general financial security. If you don’t have a plan, now is the best time to get started. It is never too early to start the planning, but it can be too late.

An estate plan typically includes several legal documents:

• Will
• Living or Revocable Trust
• Personal Property Memorandum

• Durable Power of Attorney
• Healthcare Power of Attorney
• Living Will

Your estate plan will change over time and is only effective if it is kept current. New tax laws need to be evaluated to see how they affect your situation. Families change. What you want to accomplish may change, too.

  • Define or refine your goals. This is valuable information to share with your attorney and other financial advisors. Consider how your family has changed. Marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren? How well do you think your heirs will work together? Are there particular philanthropic causes that you want to provide for? Has anything changed what you consider important?
  • Special situations to address are blended families and beneficiaries with special needs. You may also want to consider using trusts to address your beneficiaries to whom you do not want to leave an outright financial distribution.
  • Gather and organize data. Take inventory of all assets and how they are currently titled. Are the beneficiary designations correct? Do you have life, disability and long-term care insurance? Any reason to add coverage? Review property and liability coverages to make sure they are still appropriate. Leave this organized list for your heirs, executor or trustee so that they will know where to start.
  • Special note about digital assets: Cypto-currency is becoming a more widely owned asset. Managing it and transferring ownership is much different than the financial assets we are most familiar with.

Less complex yet important are things as simple as login usernames and passwords. These should be documented and available to your estate representatives. Someone at the Apple Store won’t be able to help unlock that phone, iPad or computer!

Takeaway

Use your team of financial, tax and legal professionals to help guide you through this process and to provide advice that is specific to you. Your trusted advisors at Happy Trust Co. can add valuable perspective and assistance regarding your particular situation. Their experiences may help you make decisions about naming trustees and executors, specific use of trusts, general planning concepts and ideas you have.

Thoughtful and comprehensive planning will leave you confident that your loved ones are taken care of and that your legacy is the one YOU want. And, no matter how large or modest your estate is, the end result is the same for all of us—we can’t take it with us.

Bottom of the 9th. And, just as you have imagined and planned … call in the best closer. You’ve planned a lifetime for this moment.

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