Estate Planning For The Future Of Your Family

estate planning for the future of your family

It’s true that estate plans are designed to facilitate the dissemination of your estate after you die, largely by what’s included in your will or trust. However, a detailed estate plan does so much more than that by considering what’s best for your family today and your family’s short—and long-term future.

Estate Plans Are Essential for the Future Of Your Family

Here are some of the ways your estate plan protects you and your family in the short and long term.

Take care of the small things you can do now

So many financial accounts allow you to designate pay-on-death (POD) beneficiaries without any need for a will or trust. One of the biggest estate planning mistakes people make is not realizing that even a simple step like that is considered part of an estate plan. 

You may not have much of an estate to speak of in terms of property or assets. Still, anything you do have in terms of checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement funds, etc., can go into probate if you haven’t stated POD beneficiaries. Going through probate is a huge headache for family members, made worse if your beneficiaries/heirs are all minors or very young adults.

Do a review of any financial accounts you have and make sure you have someone selected. You can also select multiple beneficiaries and divide the account by percentage. So, for example, if you have three children, you can add all three (using their legal names and social security numbers) and then allocate ⅓ (or whatever percentage) of the account to each one.

Establishing Advanced Medical Directives

An advanced medical directive is absolutely critical for everyone – whether you’re single, partnered, married, divorced, have a family, or have no family, and regardless of your financial status. 

Life can change in a moment. People end up in critical medical conditions regardless of their age. It could be a heart attack or stroke, a car accident, a serious fall while hiking, or an unexpected rogue wave that knocks us out of a kayak. Your advanced directive is the best way to ensure your family, friends, loved ones, and medical team guide their decision-making in accordance with your wishes.

  • Share your plans with those closest to you (especially anyone listed as your emergency contact).
  • Review copies with your physician and specialists.
  • Put a copy printed on bright pink paper and put it on your refrigerator door (that’s where EMTs are trained to look first for any instructions around do not resuscitate (DNR) or for medical emergencies.
  • Keep a copy in your glove compartment or desk drawer.
  • Give one to a trusted neighbor.

Choosing guardians for your children (or pets)

If you have a child, you need to establish a legal document outlining who will take care of them – called legal guardianship –  if you are incapacitated or if you die. Again, couples often make the mistake of thinking that the other person would care for the children if one of them dies in a car accident or unexpected event. That’s true. But what if you die in the same accident? 

It’s not easy to prepare for the worst, but you owe it to your children to ensure their transition after a traumatic event is as smooth as possible. If they’re old enough, share the information with them so they know there is a plan in place, and they will always be taken care of.

It is equally important to create a plan and document it via a legal estate plan if you have a child with special needs. While most children are considered legal adults and able to be independent at age 18, children with special needs may require assistance for the rest of their lives. This should be addressed as soon as possible, even if those needs change over time—and your estate plan should reflect those changes. When they’re minors, these plans are covered by your guardianship plans. Once your child(ren) is an adult, you may choose to revise the plan to include a conservatorship.

If you have pets…

If you have pets, it’s a good idea to speak to family and friends and determine who will take on their care if you are incapacitated or if you die before your pet dies. Depending on the situation, we can also talk about establishing a small account to cover the lifetime expenses for your pet(s) care – such as food, toys, boarding, annual vet visits, emergency funds, etc.

Create a living trust

Similarly, if you have children or you own a home, property, or other assets, it’s smart to create a living trust. Trusts cover how your assets will be distributed and also have other tax benefits that can be beneficial now but definitely protect your heirs and beneficiaries down the road.

Looking ahead to tax benefits

All four of the above topics serve to protect the future of your family in the short as well as the long-term. However, time marches on. This is why we recommend revisiting your estate plans at least once every year or two.

As your estate grows, there’s a good chance we’ll be looking at how to protect your family’s long-term future considerations. This includes creating an estate plan that minimizes the taxes and fees required and simplifying things so the estate includes the funding accounts to handle those payments.

Thinking about Alzheimer’s or other chronic/terminal diseases and the future of your family

An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis turns clients’ worlds upside down, as do other chronic or terminal disease diagnoses. Once you’re able to think ahead, schedule an appointment with your estate planning attorney to create a long-term care plan and strategy.

Some diseases progress faster than others, and you just never know which category yours will fall into. Also, the more cognitive decline there is, or the more physically uncomfortable or fatigued a person becomes, the harder it is to create plans that accommodate their wishes and goals. 

Tseng Law Firm Creates Time-Sensitive & Future Estate Plans

The team at Tseng Law Firm specializes in creating timely estate plans that evaluate your needs today while also preparing for the future. 

Our goal is the same as yours: to protect your family’s future. We do that by guiding clients as they create values-based estate plans and revising them over time as needed. Contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about setting your estate plans in motion.