A Guide to Reaching Your Estate Planning Goals

A Guide to Reaching Your Estate Planning Goals

One popular goal people set every year is to do or redo their estate planning. However, reaching their estate planning goals is often one of those items on people’s to-do lists that tend to get pushed down to the bottom. This is not surprising. Many folks don’t exactly love the prospect of thinking about what will happen should they get sick or die. 

But, like taxes, sickness and death are part of life, meaning you are much better off preparing for them than having to scramble or make your relatives scramble because you didn’t adequately prepare when you had the chance. So, how can you increase the likelihood that you stick to taking care of your estate planning today? Here are a few suggestions. 

Make a list of your estate planning goals.

You are either the type of person who loves making lists or hates it. But putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is an effective way to sort your thoughts, especially regarding estate planning. 

A helpful strategy is to ask yourself a series of “what if” questions. What if I were to get sick? What if I were to become incapacitated? What if I were to die unexpectedly? 

Then, ask yourself this next open-ended question: What would happen to … my mom? My child? My grandkids? My special needs sister? My pet? My assets? My social media? And more. Posing these questions to yourself will cause you to think of different scenarios and who, and not just you, could be affected by each one.  

Only you know the answers to these questions. Spending time thinking about them before starting your estate planning can facilitate the process, as your estate planning lawyer will need this information from you to protect your interests and those of the people you care about.   

Talk to your loved ones about your intentions and end-of-life wishes. 

As you collect your thoughts about your estate planning goals, it can be a good idea to talk about your intentions for your estate plan and your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, depending on your relationship with them. These aren’t always easy conversations; your loved ones may have their own ideas for your estate plan. 

It is best to hear them out without participating in any heated arguments. On a positive note, those you speak with may have some valuable ideas you haven’t thought of yet. Either way, the intel you receive during these chats will be helpful to you when you begin working on your estate plan with your estate planning attorney. 

Create a list of key players in your estate plan.

As part of your discussions, consider who you may want to fill the various roles in your estate plan. Those individuals will include beneficiaries, the executor or co-executors, trustee(s), guardians, and those with medical and financial powers of attorney. 

If you are unsure of what these roles entail or who you want to choose to fill them, don’t worry; a Washington state estate planning attorney will be there to help walk you through these choices. Also, you can change most designations as time goes on, whether because one of your designees becomes incapacitated or dies, a designee no longer wants or is up for a particular role, or you have a change of heart.    

Gather all relevant documents related to your estate plan.

In anticipation of meeting with a Washington state estate planning lawyer to create an estate plan or update your existing one, you will need to gather all the documents you can that relate to your estate planning objectives. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to update your estate plan every three to five years or sooner should there be a life event that affects it, such as a marriage, death, or the birth of a child or grandchild.

The documents you will need to gather will include your current estate plan, if you have one, account information for retirement and other investments, and a list of your assets, including digital assets, and anything else you would like to include, such as a list of jewelry and vehicles. 

An estate plan could include various types of trusts (testamentary, revocable, and irrevocable), depending on your individual circumstances. But, in general, a thorough estate plan will include the following five documents, which, to make matters a little confusing, are sometimes called by different names.  

Will

A last will and testament is the document you use to articulate your preferences regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. In it, you will designate a personal representative, known as an executor. You may also wish to appoint co-executors for your will. The executor has the responsibility of overseeing your estate and executing your instructions for allocating your assets.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A durable power of attorney for finances or financial power of attorney enables you to designate a trusted individual to manage financial matters on your behalf as your agent should you become incapable of handling your own finances.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a medical power of attorney, allows you to appoint a trustworthy person of your choosing to make health care and medical decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive becomes effective when you are incapacitated and no longer able to communicate with your doctors about your care and end-of-life decisions. This ensures your wishes are carried out exactly as you specify, so there is no guesswork for your loved ones. 

Cremation Directive

A cremation directive outlines your burial and funeral preferences, providing guidance to your loved ones concerning your end-of-life wishes. This document is important to have because your loved ones will have to make choices following your passing fairly quickly. You want them to know your wishes.

Don’t worry if you can’t immediately think of everything you want to include in your estate plan or find or access the documents you need. Your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the basics of estate planning so you can get started together. 

Find a Washington state estate planning lawyer. 

Taking the first step toward estate planning is often the most difficult. But the good news is that once you have a vision for what you want, estate planning in Washington state can be straightforward with the support of skilled and experienced estate planning attorneys.

At Elise Buie Family Law, we recognize that the emotions that go along with estate planning may not always be so easy to navigate, which is why our team of Washington state estate planning lawyers will explain the process to you every step of the way and offer suggestions about how best to communicate with loved ones. 

This skill can be especially helpful if you are addressing estate planning issues in conjunction with a family law matter, such as a divorce, and tensions are running high. We assist clients in both areas of law, understanding how estate planning and family law intersect.   

If you have been putting off your estate planning, don’t worry; the best time to start is today. Call our Seattle office today.   

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