It may seem strange to associate estate planning with the holidays. It is actually a great time to assess your family’s situation, its changing needs, and how that affects how you want your assets distributed when you die.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1789, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The only uncertainty is when death will happen. Whenever that is, it can give you peace of mind today to know that you have left instructions so that your wishes will be carried out.
Important Questions to Ask Before Your Holiday Celebration Begins
When you get together for the holidays, you may notice some changes in your family. There may be new babies, new spouses, new stepchildren. Some loved ones may be missing this year, having passed away or otherwise left the family since the last time you all got together. These new developments themselves may inspire your need to update your estate plan.
In addition to your observations, ask yourself these questions and decide if there is anyone at this family gathering who you want to speak to about their willingness to act for you if you will need them to.
- Who do you trust to have your power of attorney? This needs to be someone who you trust enough to make financial and other personal decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.
- Do you need a healthcare power of attorney or advance directive? The healthcare power of attorney gives someone you trust the power to make medical decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself. An advance directive gives that person instructions about what you want for your end-of-life care.
- Do you need a will or to update your will? Are there new relatives that have joined the family that you want to provide for? Are there some who have left the family who you no longer want to include in your will?
- Do you need to form a trust or update an existing trust? You may want a trust so your estate will avoid probate, or to leave instructions for the care of a disabled child or other relative, or to withhold inheritance from your children until they reach a certain age.
- Do you have any new financial accounts or need to update beneficiaries? Check who you have named as beneficiaries of your insurance policies, retirement plans, and investment accounts. Are they still what you want even if there have been family changes?
- Do you need to discuss your plans with anyone? Conflict after your death can be avoided if your family all knows of your desires and wishes.