October 14-23, 2022 is National Estate Planning Awareness Week! Beginning in 2008 with when the U.S House of Representatives adopted Resolution 1499, the third week of October is annually dedicated to encouraging the distribution of estate planning information by professionals to all Americans.
At the time HR 1499 was passed, it was estimated that over 120 million Americans did not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. A survey at that time also found that approximately two-thirds of Americans over age 65 believed they lacked the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement, and nearly one half of all Americans were unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k) plan. While these surveys may be slightly outdated now, the basic premise remains true. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the basic information needed to plan for their retirement and to plan for death or incapacity.
At Lumbertown Law, we know the value of proper estate planning. We also recognize that the estate planning process often involves a bit of education because it is so unfamiliar to many people. We're here to help navigate you through this process.
Careful estate planning is an important tool to preserve what you have worked hard for during your lifetime, and can also provide for and protect your family and/or charities that are important to you in the event of your death or disability. Estate planning is a very broad topic, and it often begins with taking an inventory of:
The assets you own;
How those assets are titled;
Any beneficiary designations associated with any assets; and
Your goals and objectives in the event of death or incapacity.
From there, legal documents such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations can be prepared, and beneficiary designations should be updated to be consistent with your overall plan. As part of this plan, you might also choose to make charitable gifts to organizations or entities that have played an important role in your life or your community. Working with trusted professionals to help you navigate this process ensures that your goals and objectives will be achieved.
The estate planning process encourages you to make decisions about how your assets should be titled, how and when beneficiaries should receive assets, and the possible transfer of assets during your lifetime. Factors such as the tax implications (both income and estate/gift tax), the ability of your beneficiaries to manage assets, and the age of your beneficiaries should be considered.
Estate planning can prevent family members or other beneficiaries from being subjected to complex legal and administrative processes (which take time and money to navigate), and greatly reduce confusion or even animosity among family members or other heirs upon the death of a loved one.
Estate planning should not just focus on your wealth and assets - it should also help you plan for and outline your wishes with respect to your health care and treatment if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Topics such as life-sustaining treatment, end-of-life care, organ donation and funeral planning can and should also be outlined so your family and loved ones know your wishes and have the proper authority to carry them out.
Finally, your estate planning should not be done in a vacuum. The most well-drafted plans can be meaningless if they are not properly provided to the institutions that hold your assets, if beneficiary designations and titles to assets are not properly updated, and if the people your designate to carry out your plan are unaware you have completed it.
Throughout the coming week, we will have a series of blog posts to focus on certain areas of the estate planning process. Check back often to learn more!
If you would like to begin the estate planning process, or if your existing estate plan needs to be reviewed, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.