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Estate Planning for Uncertain Times

Terri Hilliard Olson, Esq.

A crisis, whether global or personal, can surprise us all. If you are not prepared, your family will have the heavy burden of handling your estate or financial affairs in the case of serious illness or death.

Many people believe they don’t have enough in assets to warrant the need for an estate plan, but if you have a car, bank account, house, life insurance policy and/or retirement account, you need a plan. Some things you can do to benefit your heirs and beneficiaries after your passing and in the event you become ill include the following:

  1. Make a plan. The most common estate-planning mistake is not having a plan. We’re all going to eventually leave this Earth, so it’s important to thoughtfully lay out how you want your personal and financial affairs handled.
  2. Provide access. Provide access to your current planning documents to a family member or trusted agent. Leave a list of your digital assets, passwords and online accounts so they can manage your financial and medical affairs if needed. Give health providers and agents a copy of your health directive, prescription lists and other important details.
  3. Protect your assets. Various strategies can protect your assets in the event of creditor situations, including bankruptcy, lawsuit or divorce.
  4. Update your plan. Life is full of changes—births, deaths, marriages, divorces, property acquisitions and others—each needing updating in the estate plan to ensure the assets left behind are protected and preserved as you intend.
  5. Plan for disability. As we age, we are more prone to disability or incapacity. Should you need long-term care, it’s important to determine who will oversee your personal and financial affairs, including raising your children, making health care decisions and handling legal matters. Appoint a power of attorney and/or create a living trust in the event you’re unable to do things for yourself. Make certain you have detailed your health care directives.
  6. Fund your trust or name beneficiaries. To avoid court intervention and probate when you die, fund your Revocable Living Trust. Make sure your financial accounts and policies have beneficiaries. If you leave assets to young children outside of a trust, their guardian will be in charge of their assets until they are 18, which may not be your desire.
  7. Choose an impartial enforcer. Spouses and family members may be too personally invested in your estate to handle it impartially. Choose a friend or professional advisor who does not have a stake in your estate to manage the myriad details of carrying out your wishes.
  8. Don’t wait. Most people recognize an estate plan’s benefits, but often wait until an unexpected death or disability occurs to make a plan. Call us for a free Crisis Covid Checklist.

At Terri Hilliard, PC, we are experienced in legal, financial and tax matters affecting estate planning. We help you make your plan current, relevant and effective based on your particular needs and desires to help you minimize your tax burden and enhance the value of your estate. Contact us at 805.201.2552 or thilliard@terrihilliard.com.

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