What Is Estate Planning, & Why Is It Important?
You’ve heard the term “estate planning” thrown around by family, friends, and news reports, but you don’t quite know what it all means and why it’s so important. Is estate planning just making sure you have a will written out or are there other aspects to the process? And, if you’re still young, do you need to worry about estate planning yet?
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is making plans about who will receive your personal items – cars, house, financial assets – in the event of your death. Additionally, designating who will care for your children, finding the best way to minimize taxing and court costs for settling your estate, and naming someone who will care for you if you are disabled are all important parts of comprehensive estate planning.
Although estate planning does not have to happen with the input of an attorney or financial advisor, getting these professionals involved in the process can help minimize any mistakes that might be made and will smooth out any bumps your family may experience if they need to settle your estate.
Comprehensive estate planning includes, but is not limited to:
- Writing up a legally enforceable will or living trust to designate where all your assets will go if you die.
- Collecting and organizing all your important financial paperwork, including copies of titles to vehicles, land deeds, and life insurance contracts.
- Having documents assigning guardians and inheritance managers for your minor children.
Many people think once they’ve gotten their estate planning “done” that they don’t need to think about it again. However, the documents created and used during the estate planning process must be frequently updated to reflect current conditions. Such conditions that must be accounted for include changing balances of debts, changing ownership of property, children who grow and are no longer minors, and divorce or death of someone named in a will.
Failing to frequently update your estate planning documents could mean that your family gets put through a lengthy, expensive probate or litigation process over your assets, leaving little for anyone to inherit.
Why Is Estate Planning Important?
By taking the time to draw up important documents during the estate planning process, you have a better chance of your assets going right where you want them to go in the event of your death. Even if certain portions of your estate have to go through the probate process, taking charge of the items that can be put under your control – who will take care of your children, or who benefits from your life insurance or 401K, for example – means the probate process is likely to be less complicated and costly.
Estate planning isn’t just for older people with significant assets. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that younger people die, sometimes without warning. Accidental and other unforeseen deaths leave a lot of uncertainty and expense for surviving family members at a time when they need it least.
Taking the time to make an estate plan that states where your assets will go and how your other affairs should be handled in the event of your death (as well as regularly updating these plans) is one of the best gifts you can give your family if you do pass away.
Experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Maryland
At the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, we help individuals and couples navigate the sometimes complicated estate planning process with ease. We help younger and older people, single and married, decide what will happen with their possessions in the event that tragedy strikes. Let us help you make these difficult decisions a little easier. Call today!Tags: elder law, estate planning, long-term planning, trusts, wills