Although we cannot yet see into the future, we can plan as best as we can today to give our estate plan the best chance of living up to our hopes. In addition, you will spare your family a lot of trouble and heartache if you prepare a comprehensive estate plan, both after you die and in your later years. It’s not difficult to do once you know how, but it’s not really enjoyable because it inevitably requires confronting your mortality. The truth is that there will come a moment when you will no longer be here. And if you live into your nineties, you have a one in four chance of losing your ability to make decisions for yourself.
1. Life Changes—So Should Your Estate Plan
Estate planning should be a continuous activity rather than a one-time occurrence. Therefore, your plan should be evaluated and changed as your family and financial circumstances (as well as state law) change over time. Here are some questions that may trigger a change to your plan:
- Marriage: Do I want my current/new spouse to be my executor? Should I include them as the primary agent on my power of attorney documents? Would my spouse be provided for if I theoretically pass away tomorrow? What about marriage of my beneficiaries . . . is there a new in-law that may impact how I feel about leaving a gift to someone?
- Children: Have new family members been born? Do I need a trust for children in the family? Who should be the trustee for the children? Do I have a guardian in place for my minor children? What do they get when they come of age?
- Death: Has a family member or fiduciary passed away? Was the deceased family member a fiduciary in estate planning documents (as an executor, trustee, guardian, or agent)? Have I named alternates I trust to take their place?
Estate planning is seldom “one-size-fits-all.” While these are some essential life events to address, there are many additional instances in which a planning session is necessary. In general, we advise clients to reach out if they are unsure if they need to make changes to their estate plan so that we can give recommendations depending on their current life situation.
2. Plan for Long-Term Care
As the life expectancy of Americans has gone up, so has the cost of long-term care. It’s great news to know that we are living longer than past generations, but this also means we should prepare long into the future. Part of preparing for the future includes planning as soon as possible for the possibility that you may need long-term care. Maybe you wonder if you have sufficient assets to provide for your care needs. In that case, we can explore several options, including investing in long-term care insurance or preparing to qualify for Medicaid long-term care.
3. Communicate with Key Stakeholders
When it comes to your estate plan, there are some considerable benefits to involving—or, at the very least, notifying—your heirs. If you feel comfortable addressing it with them, honest conversation can prevent problems later on, such as someone opposing your will or trust. It can also ensure that your larger objectives do not surprise your closest loved ones and that your wishes are eventually carried out as you intend.
Maintain communication with crucial figures such as your spouse, adult children, and other professional advisors such as accountants and financial advisors. Remember that not all stakeholders need the same degree of information. While your professional team may be aware of every detail of your plan, you may want to be more cautious about what you disclose with your minor children or grandchildren. This is especially true if you anticipate that inheritance specifics will cause family strife. A methodical approach is essential. Sometimes, timing is key to disclosing information. We trust you on this one—you know your family better than we do.
4. Start by Educating Your Loved Ones
Although some younger loved ones may not need to know some of the intricate details of your estate plan, as outlined in the previous paragraph, educating younger generations about how to handle assets responsibly is still a good idea. Spend time teaching your children and grandchildren about money, beginning with the fundamentals like saving, budgeting, and charitable donations. In addition, outside mentorship and investing methodology could be part of their financial education as they age. The more you equip the next generation with the tools they need to make wise financial decisions, the more at ease you’ll be knowing that your vision for your family’s financial future will be preserved even after you’re gone.
Virginia Estate Planning for The Future
The future is filled with uncertainties, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for some of them. We invite you to browse our site to discover more about what we do and how we can assist you in protecting your loved ones and your legacy. From our educational blog posts that are a quick, easy read to our informative workshops, we are committed to client education. When you learn more, you’ll feel more confident that while it is kind of scary, you are up to this important task. We want to help you succeed.
If you’re looking to start (or finish!) estate planning, why not call us to set up a consultation or attend one of our free educational estate planning workshops? We would be delighted to speak with you to get started!