Roughly half of all Americans don’t have a will, so if you’ve already taken this vital step to then congratulations are in order - you’re already ahead of the curve. While a will is a necessary document that every person should have, it is a relatively simple document that does not account for all aspects of estate planning. As we all know, the only constant in our lives is change and as you progress through life you may want to consider updating your estate plan through the use of a living trust. A living trust is a great tool for managing your assets through your lifetime and serves as a vital part of incapacity planning for any family. Additionally, updating you estate plan will allow you to refresh other important “ancillary” estate documents such as your financial power of attorney, living will and health care power of attorney. We here at Forbush Legal generally recommend you update your ancillary documents every 3-5 years to ensure they reflect the latest changes in law and account for any need to change the persons designated to serve key roles in your estate plan (i.e. health care agent).
A trust-based estate plan is a comprehensive tool designed to direct how your estate is to be distributed after your death and to control how your assets will be managed should you become disabled or incapacitated. A trust-based estate plan can save you and your successors substantial amounts of money in court costs, legal fees and taxes. Consider the following items when creating an estate plan:
Do you have/are you expecting children/grandchildren? This is one of the most important factors to consider when creating an estate plan. If your intent is to provide for your children or grandchildren through your estate plan, you may also want to create a trust to help manage and protect those assets.
Minimize probate and maximize privacy. An estate plan that uses a living trust will allow your heirs to move through the administration process as quickly and efficiently as possible. A will must go through probate and any information brought forward in probate court is public knowledge and all of the terms of your will plus the assets could become part of the public record.
Consider your digital information. One thing that’s often forgotten, but necessary in today’s digital age, is what happens to your online information after you die? Many of our day-to-day activities are conducted online and this may present issues for your family after you die. For example, if you invest or bank online, it can be an incredible hassle for your heirs to decode your online financial life. Consider storing your passwords in a safe place and then give access through a power of attorney to someone you trust who will be able to help your family manage your online footprint.
There are many other factors to consider when constructing an estate plan, some of which can be complicated. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office if you wish to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss how best to protect your legacy.