Estate planning is not about planning for your future. Instead, it is about easing the future sense of loss among your loved ones.
It is easy to make mistakes that cause your survivors more heartache. You want to leave behind a loving legacy, not a legal mess.
Putting an estate plan in place
The biggest mistake, of course, is having no estate plan at all. That leaves loved ones fighting with each other or the government in court over your estate.
Another worst-case scenario: You become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. That is why you should name both financial and health care power attorneys. They will make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. Discuss your desires with them to better ensure that they carry out your wishes. Otherwise, a judge may appoint a guardian who may not have your interests in mind.
Reviewing the estate plan in place
Review your plan regularly to update your beneficiaries. Someone important to you when you make the plan may no longer be part of your life decades from now. The most dramatic examples include separations, divorces, remarriages and when beneficiaries die. Do you want the bulk of your estate going to your ex-spouse?
Also review your estate plan if you move to another state, where the laws may be different. Keep an eye on changes in tax and estate tax laws, which can have a major impact on your plan.
In short, your task is far from done once you have settled on an estate plan. Treat it as a living document.
Taking care of estate plan particulars and the future
The list of details never ends. Establishing guardianship for direct beneficiaries younger than 18 and funding a revocable trust are additional considerations to bear in mind.
Yes, the process is complex. What is most important is your final desires and creating peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.