Why Estate Planning

“Why do I need to do Estate Planning?”

“I’m way too young to think about that now”

“That is too hard of a subject to talk to my parents about”

Sound familiar?  Yep, they did to me too.

I am in my mid-life as we like to call it, with children still at home. My husband and I are nowhere near retirement, have a home, and are diligently trying to save money for college for our three kids. Planning a will, or a health directive seemed to be the farthest thing from our minds.  I mean, we are young right? Planning for your death is for old people. We have tons of time left, and so do our parents.  Then 13 years ago life came crashing down and my mom became really sick.  She had been ill on and off for her whole life, but this time she wasn’t going to bounce back again.  The uncomfortable discussions were made with my father about her health directive, their will, funeral wishes, none of which they had talked about in a while and some they hadn’t prepared for.  In an emotional time, decisions needed to be made.  After her passing we continued those hard discussions with my dad. It was then I realized the importance of planning ahead.

Recently my father passed away. I knew I was the Executor of the Estate. A whole new set of questions popped up. I had no idea what I was doing.  I knew he had given me a copy of the will, and told me where the original was, but I couldn’t remember.  My mind kept going back to TV shows and movies where the Lawyer gathered the family together for the reading of the will.  Was that how it really happened?

I have learned from my experiences and the help of good lawyers. That is why we are going to take the fear and unknown out of Estate Planning.

First, when do you need to start planning? NOW! It doesn’t matter what age you are; it is never too early or too late to start planning.

How do I start planning? Call up a trusted Lawyer and make an appointment. Bring your asset (the things you own) details, retirement and life insurance information, and a list of family members and beneficiaries. Also, start thinking about who you want to handle your affairs.

What are some parts of Estate Planning? In Washington, your plan will generally include a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, and an Advanced Care directive.

A Will states who the beneficiaries will be, who you want to be the Personal Representative or Executor (they take care of your estate and distribution), and how you want your financial affairs handled. You can also designate a guardian for minors and plan for estate taxes, among other things. If you die without a will (intestate), your estate would be distributed according to your state’s laws. This can cause conflict or result in distributions being made that do not align with your wishes.

A Durable Power of Attorney names a person who can act on your behalf financially and medically if you become unable to do so. An Advanced Health Care Directive generally states how you want to handle life support or end of life care if you are unable to do so.

An Experienced Lawyer can help you developed an Estate Plan that fits your needs. And remember those needs can change from year to year so it’s important to review your plan every 3-5 years.

Some wise counsel? Once you make a will keep it in a safe place, but also tell those you trust where it is located. The Court will want the original! Lastly, don’t put off the hard discussions, take care of it now. I promise you won’t regret planning now, and your loved ones will thank you. 

written by Alayna Chivers