There is more to your estate plan than stating who will get your property after your passing. Through your estate plan, you get to make decisions related to your health care, minor children, financial affairs, and more. You also get to carry on your legacy, whether that be contributing to your favorite charity or encouraging a child to go to college.
An effective estate plan makes your intentions clear and is tailored to your personal goals and wishes. Your financial situation, family relationships, spiritual beliefs, and personal desires are all your own. No one else will or should have the same estate plan as you. For these reasons, all estate plans should be built on a foundation of thoughtfulness, honesty, and communication.
It is important for you to spend time thinking about what is most important to you. Is your sister who’s in college the best suited to take care of your minor children? Is your 20-year-old child ready to manage a large inheritance? Should your brother be your agent under your medical power of attorney when he lives 500 miles away? Do you want to donate your organs? These are only a few questions you should consider when developing your estate plan. Take the time to think about what you really want and who is truly best suited for each role. The Client Questionnaire will guide you through the thought process.
Be honest with yourself and with your loved ones. As you consider the details of your estate plan, be honest with yourself about your relationships and the goals you want to accomplish through your estate plan. If your sister is struggling financially with 3 kids of her own, maybe she isn’t the best person to take care of your 3 children. Remember that this is a plan to carry out your intentions. You may hurt someone’s feelings, but it is more important that you do what you think is right for you and your family.
Communication is an important part of any relationship. This remains true for your relationship with your attorney as well as your relationship with your loved ones. You should feel comfortable communicating with your attorney. Estate planning touches on sensitive topics that aren’t always easy to talk about. In order for your attorney to create an effective plan for you, you need to be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings to her.
Additionally, you should communicate with your loved ones. A major reason to have an estate plan is to prevent family feuds after your death. No one wants their grieving family to also be fighting over what they think you would have wanted. It is helpful to have conversations with your loved ones about your intentions. At a minimum, let one or more people know that you have an estate plan, where to find your estate plan, and who to contact in the event of your death or incapacity.