There is no time like the present, and that is especially true in the world of estate planning. Although it is preferable to live a long and healthy life, it is always prudent to plan in advance to ensure your wishes are carried out as you desire.
Planning now is also important in the event you become mentally incapacitated. If you become incapacitated, your estate plan will appoint a health care surrogate to assist in making medical care decisions and for the purpose of carrying out your end of life wishes. You can also set forth your wishes regarding the appointment of a pre-need guardian and for the purpose of making an anatomical gift. You may also outline your desires regarding your final disposition, such as cremation or burial.
Children and blended families are another reason why it is crucial to create your estate plan now. Without a plan, your state's intestacy laws determine what happens to your assets. Additionally, when you have no plan, the court will determine what happens to your minor children and how their assets will be distributed. It is always better to personally select those persons who should be responsible for the care of your minor children and the management of their assets. If you have a child with special needs, it is vital to consider a special needs trust. Be sure and work with a qualified estate planning attorney so they can assist you in making good decisions and answering the questions you didn't even know you needed to ask.
Exercising control over the distribution of your assets is yet another reason to do your planning now. Without a plan in place you could unintentionally disinherit a spouse or child. Planning can also protect your surviving spouse in the event of a remarriage or protect your children in the event of a divorce or catastrophic financial event. Proper estate planning can contemplate these concerns and provide a solution. Don't find out too late that proper planning could have avoided future problems.
Finally, it's important to consider the plan you already have in place and whether it reflects your wishes and planning goals. For some, estate taxes may be a concern and a proper plan can ensure that more dollars are received by your beneficiaries than the United States government.
Estate planning is never complete until you review your plan in harmony with your asset ownership and your beneficiary designations. This includes life insurance, retirement plans and annuities. Always work with a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure your plan and your assets are properly integrated and you understand how one impacts the other.
Remember, creating your estate plan doesn't stop on the day you execute your plan - it's a lifetime process. Review and update your planning any time there is a significant change in your family, the law or in your legacy. Ask your attorney to keep you advised of changes in their experience that may also have an impact on the effectiveness of your plan.