Estate planning is one of those clerical tasks that otherwise responsible adults tend to put off for far too long. If you’ve intended to begin the estate planning process before now, but have yet to carve out sufficient time, you’re not alone.
Often, what holds would-be planners back from actually creating their plans is uncertainty — the entirely reasonable concern that their plan will fail to account for some eventuality, or won’t accurately reflect their needs and desires five or ten years hence.
These and other concerns are valid, to be sure. But they can be addressed, starting here. Let’s review six estate planning tips for first-timers who aren’t sure where to begin.
- Most Elements of an Estate Plan Are Not Set in Stone
Lose the all-too-common misconception that, once finalized, your estate plan can’t be revised to reflect important life changes — or mere changes in your personal whims. Most elements of your estate plan, including your last will, living will, and any revocable trusts or corporate structures you’ve set up to hold your assets, can be altered at your discretion. Indeed, your estate planner is likely to recommend that you revisit your plan every five to ten years to ensure that it reflects your current wishes.
- Off-the-Shelf Plans May Not Adequately Address Your Needs
Avoid generic, off-the-shelf estate planning documents that fail to adequately address your needs. If you have complex family dynamics, hold assets in multiple countries, or run your own business, you’ll need to work with an estate planning partner capable of acting in your best interests. Financial services firms like Asia-Pacific based Asiaciti Trust specialize in creating ownership structures, such as trusts and corporations, that benefit estate owners and their heirs.
- Consider the Needs of Your Minor Children
Unfortunately, the unthinkable does happen. Should you and your spouse both pass on before your children reach the age of majority, your estate plan must provide for their care and guardianship. Consult a family law attorney to determine how best to accommodate this in your estate plan.
- Choose Your Executor Wisely
Ensure that your assets and interests remain in good hands after you’re gone by designating a competent executor in whom you have the utmost trust. Think twice about selecting a family member or friend out of mere fealty; this decision is too important to base on emotion alone.
- Recognize That You May One Day Be Incapable of Making Decisions on Your Own Behalf
Don’t forget to include a living will (medical directive) and power of attorney designation in your estate plan. Both are essential in the event that you become incompetent to make decisions on your own behalf — for instance, due to progressive cognitive decline or a serious injury that compromises brain function.
- You Must Act on Your Plan
Last, but not least: your estate plan is only as good as your ability to implement it. Be sure to act on any action items left after its finalization, such as the retitling and transfer of assets.
Don’t Leave Important Matters to Chance
Your family’s future is too important to leave to change. By creating an estate plan today, before you need it, you’ll ensure that your loved ones will be cared-for and comfortable after you’re gone. They deserve it — and so do you.