Estate planning is a crucial life management and wealth preservation activity for adults of all ages and all income levels.
Across the United States, October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month, an educational campaign intended to focus attention on the importance of having a plan to care for family members and manage accumulated wealth in old age and following death.
Just 4 in 10 adults in the United States have a will or trust. Estate planning is crucial for people of any age or income status. Parents with young children need to have a plan in place — at a minimum, a designated guardian and instructions conveyed in a trust — in the event of an unexpected death or disability.
For everyone else, estate plans should be created to address tax avoidance issues, property management, asset protection, wealth distribution and health care decisions in the event of cognitive decline or disability prior to death.
Without a will or trust in place, important decisions about the care of young children and distribution of property at death will be made by a judge, often following a contested and expensive legal proceeding.
Estate Planning Awareness Month is a great time for everyone to take stock of their estate plans and financial health. If there is already an estate plan in place, now might be a good time to review it. If there is none in place now is the time get started:
- Define goals. Decide how any family responsibilities and property will be managed in the event of disability or death.
- Gather and organize data. Take inventory of all assets and title held to them. Identify any beneficiaries.
- Implement an estate plan. Develop a strategy — ideally with the assistance of a financial or estate planning professional — for managing and distributing the estate. Consider drafting the following documents: designation of guardian, will, trust, power of attorney and health care directives.
- Monitor and make changes if necessary. Life circumstances change, so do tax and probate laws. Mark the calendar to review estate plans annually.
For a detailed explanation of the measures necessary to create a sound estate plan, consult the comprehensive estate planning resources available at the Littman Krooks website.
National Estate Planning Awareness Month is a nationwide public education campaign first launched in 2008. With sound estate planning, individuals and their families can maintain financial security during their lifetimes and ensure the efficient, intended transfer of assets following death.
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