It's the end of the year, and our calendars are quickly filling with holidays. It seems like Thanksgiving was upon us only yesterday, and we looked at some tips for discussing estate planning around the Thanksgiving table. Now that the end of the year is upon us, you'll probably soon see a bunch of content online aimed at getting you to craft new year's resolutions and other ways to start 2023 on the right foot. In my world, I find many people will reach out in early January because they've officially put "Draft an Estate Plan" on their resolutions list.
There are others who won't even wait for the calendar to turn over to 2023 and will be trying to sort out how they can get their estate plan put together before the end of the year (it can be a challenge with the holidays, but it can be done...).
No matter which category you fall into, as the end of the year approaches, it's a good time to consider whether you (a) need an estate plan or (b) need to update the estate plan you currently have.
Estate Planning and the Holidays
The past few years have taught us the importance of family and the connections we have to each other. In my family, we've had some less-than-connected Christmas mornings as we've been forced to use FaceTime and other technology to connect with family members in other places. But as we consider those connections and the different ways we can stay in touch, I often also think about the legacy of our family and those family members who are no longer living. I've been blessed to have some wonderful legacies left in my life from my grandparents, and they used estate planning (and non-estate planning) ways to leave those legacies.
For most people, estate planning is not going to be the top thing on their mind over the holidays (and unless you're connected to the estate planning world, most people don't have it on their mind at all). But as you look around your family gatherings, you can think of all the different ways you can protect your legacy for your family. Some common topics that my clients discuss with me are
- Protecting Your Family Cabin from Probate Court
- Leaving Money for Your Favorite Charity
- Protecting Your House from Probate Court
- Planning for Your Pets in Case Something Happens to You
- What Happens if You Don't Have a Will?
- Planning for Cryptocurrency
If you've got a blended family, there are a variety of reasons that you want to make sure that you control where your legacy goes after you're gone (in case you don't want to accidentally cut out your own children or have your share go to stepchildren instead).
So, if you do spend some time thinking about this, the first place to start is whether you already have an estate plan or not. If you have one, you should consider whether it's time to get it updated. If you just created your plan, you are likely fine and don't need any updates (unless there have been big life changes since you signed it). But on the other end of the spectrum, if you had your estate plan prepared 20 years ago, no matter what life has thrown at you in the past two decades, it's a good time to meet with an attorney to determine if you need a new plan. If nothing else, your healthcare documents and power of attorney could likely use some freshening up after all those years.
If you've never had an estate plan put together before, now is probably a good time to at least spend some time considering what you want your future legacy to look like. Some common documents you'll encounter (and that you'll want to know about as you start the process) are
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- General Durable Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- HIPAA Authorization
Depending on your situation, there may be other documents you'll need to consider as well. But these are just some of the common documents that are in most people's estate plans and that you should know about as you get the process started.
Whatever holiday you are celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful one this year. It's been another long and crazy year, complete with an election, a recently concluded World Cup, and countless other things that have made this a busy year. So take some time and relax before that calendar turns over to 2023...
Do You Need an Estate Plan?
If you don't already have an estate plan, or if you have one that needs to be updated, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you to work with an estate planning attorney to get your estate plan prepared.