Estate planning is something no one really wants to deal with if only because you have to take on the subject of your mortality. Given the rather morose and unhealthy mindset we've developed regarding the end of life, it's safe to say that most people try to avoid talking about death like, well, death. It isn't an easy topic to bring up, and it certainly doesn't get any easier when discussing how your belongings will be disseminated after your passing. What's more, when it comes to your finances, the topic of estate planning is all the more difficult because it involves actually coming face to face with some serious numbers.
It's too bad that so many people tend to face their final financial planning as a way of showing how little they've accomplished over their lifetime. People need to focus on the fact that they are making a plan the benefits their family after you are gone. They should be allowed to grieve, and proper estate planning accomplishes this task.
Here are five secrets (truth be told, it's just common sense) to successful estate planning:
1. Draft A Will – Mocking up a simple version of your will doesn't cost much and at least starts the process of where things may stand when you pass.
2. Name the Executor – As the title suggests, this is the person who will handle all aspects of your estate. You want someone you can trust, but you also want someone who you know will do a proper job.
3. A Living will – A living will scares a lot of people because it makes you face the possibility that you've either suffered a serious accident or are completely unable to communicate with those around you near the end of your life. Major court cases & drawn-out family dramas have come from a living will not being available & everyone scrambling to perhaps know what you might think would be possibly OK to do for you. It can get messy.
4. Update Your Will – Not only do you need to start the process of planning your estate, but you need to review the documentation at least once a year. Any changes that may come your way such as major life events (ie, deaths, marriages, etc.) may change the contents of your will, so it pays to look it over regularly.
5. Communication – Before you pass & a final reading of your will take place, and certainly before you are unable to communicate with your loved ones, you need to keep the lines of communication open so that you can tell everyone what plans you're making. Yes, your will is the legal document of record, but should an issue arise regarding your intentions, you've at least been keeping everyone abreast to your wants.
Estate planning is not a fun time. Rather than approach the matter as a dreary "to-do", though, think of it as just another note in your day planner. It is a rather defining moment in adulthood and one that everyone must understand is perhaps the most important thing they'll do to help their family out when you've passed on. But it isn't a way to signify an end to life; it's more a symbol of you firmly having your sights set on the future.