If you think of estate planning as a gift to your loved ones, and not an obligation, then you will understand why the start of a new year is the perfect time to give your family the peace of mind that an estate plan can bring. The article “Give the gift of estate planning to loved ones this holiday season” from the Brainerd Dispatch describes how stress and guilt for the family can be alleviated just by having a good estate plan in place.
The gift of estate planning will provide your family with clear directions on where you want your assets to go when you have passed, but that’s just for starters. They will be dealing with many moving parts when you pass: funeral arrangements, notifying family members and grief, which can be overwhelming.
If you don’t have a will or trust or haven’t done any estate planning, the process for your family to gain access to your assets becomes extremely problematic. The process is called probate, and it can take months and cost a great deal to unlock real estate ownership, account information or other assets for your spouse, children and grandchildren.
There’s also no way to ensure that your assets will be distributed as you wanted, if you haven’t done any estate planning. Let’s say you have a non-traditional family. You’ve lived with your partner for decades, even raised children together, but never married. Your partner and your children may find themselves completely without any voice in your estate, and no right to any assets. Without a will or trust, the state’s laws will determine who receives your assets, and that may be a sibling or a parent, if still living.
Your estate plan becomes your legacy, and it’s not just for family members. If there are causes or organizations that have meaning for you, they can be included in your estate plan. Lifetime giving or giving “with warm hands” is rewarding, because you get to see the impact of your generosity. However, you can use an estate plan to make a gift to an organization, which serves a dual purpose. It decreases the value of your estate, and can lessen the tax burden of your estate, giving your family more money.
There are many ways to make planned giving part of your estate. Donor advised funds are increasingly popular, or you may want to use a charitable trust or fund a scholarship. Our estate planning attorneys will help you determine the best way to structure your giving.
Our experienced estate planning attorneys have worked with families of all different types and have the knowledge and skills to help you create an estate plan that works best for your family. Our attorneys encourage you to talk with your family members to make sure they know that you have put a plan into place. You may wish to involve your family members in your estate planning process with our attorneys. This ensures that everyone understands why you made the decisions you did and ensures that the family understands that your estate plan is a gift from the heart.