Happy New Year!
I don’t know about you, but I love the beginning of the new year as it is a time to start fresh, get organized, and tackle new goals.
I understand that the idea of getting your financial and legal house in order is likely the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. Me, too. But, 2019 has arrived and the beginning of the new year is a good time to reflect upon the year that has passed and focus on your future aspirations and plans.
In preparation for the upcoming tax season, you may have already begun gathering some paperwork, like your property tax bill, year-end mortgage statement, or final pay stubs. Although filing your income taxes is different than putting your affairs in order, you’re already in paperwork “mode” (or will be soon) so now is the perfect time to reassess your legal and financial situation to create a new estate plan or update an existing one that no longer suits your circumstances.
Basic Estate Planning
All you really need to do to start is come up with a general list of everything that you own. You don’t have to complete a comprehensive inventory with all your detailed account information. Think instead about categories of assets, like bank accounts, life insurance, real estate, vehicles, etc.
Then, draw out your family tree and think about who you would like to receive what you’ve spent your lifetime building. If you don’t put your wishes in writing, your estate – everything you’ve worked so hard to build – may be liquidated and distributed according to the government’s plan, known as intestacy.
The foundation of all estate plans are wills and trusts. Which one is the best for you depends on your individual circumstances. I can help you figure that out.
A will is a written legal declaration of your intentions on how you want your property disposed upon death. This document is not legally enforceable until after your passing and, therefore, it can be changed at any time before you die or have diminished mental incapacity. A will allows you to control what happens after you are gone.
A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee manages property for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. Although there are many types of trusts, the one most people need is a living trust. It’s a great alternative to a will, because you can change it during your life, and it can provide financial protection should you become incapacitated. It is often easier and less expensive for your family to handle upon your death. Another common type of trust is a testamentary trust, which is one that is contained within the provisions of the will. Just like a will, a testamentary trust is not operative until your death, making them a little less flexible and more limited in function.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Estate planning can help provide financial stability for loved ones, designate a guardian for minor children or disabled family members, distribute property to chosen family members and charitable organizations, reduce tax liabilities (if that applies to you after recent tax reform), and achieve other personal and family goals. Organizing your financial and legal affairs is your opportunity to make impactful decisions about your assets, money, and health care, and leave a legacy after you are gone. It will also give you so much peace of mind. Trust me on this latter point!
Planning your estate may feel like a daunting task, but I am here to help. Contact me so we can discuss your options.