Estate Planning Isn't Reserved for the Rich

 

If something tragic happens to you, who will take care of your children?  

If you are married and something happens to both of you, how will you know that your children are well provided for?

Christians know that our eternal life resides with our Father in heaven, but many of us do not want to think about the day that our time on earth is done.

Tragedies happen every day.  Every hour.  Every minute.  It’s impossible for us to predict the future.  But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact that death is one certainty of life.

People get estate documents to put plans in place for when they die or are no longer capable of making decisions themselves.  Estate planning isn’t solely for the affluent.  

As parents, it’s our duty to protect our children and provide a warm, loving environment for them.  If you are pregnant or have any children under the age of 18, I strongly encourage you to get a Last Will and Testament, at a minimum.  It’s a legal document that spells out who gets custody of your children if you (and your spouse, if applicable) die.  

  

5 Reasons to Get Estate Documents Now

Why get your estate in order? Five reasons are offered below, adapted from this blog post written by Emily Kirk of Kirk Estate Planning:

 

1.     Peace of Mind 

One could argue that this is the most important aspect of estate planning. When you plan ahead, you provide family harmony.  Relationships are far more valuable than money alone.

 

2.     Provide for Your Family

Without a proper estate plan, your loved ones may be left in limbo. Families with an unexpected death often experience severe financial stress in the following weeks, months, and even years.  Ensure that your family has enough money to cover bills and other living expenses.

 

3.     Expedite the Process

Absent an estate plan (and a revocable trust, specifically), the courts are forced to handle everything: Property distribution, guardianship decisions, and business dissolution (if applicable).  The probate process is lengthy and can get quite expensive.  

Proper beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and a revocable, or living, trust may circumvent the probate process altogether.  Your family will have immediate access to the money they need to pay monthly expenses, funeral costs, and outstanding medical bills.

 

4.     Plan for Incapacity

Estate planning is not just about death.  If you suddenly become incapacitated by an accident or severe medical issue (i.e. stroke or heart attack), who will take care of paying your bills or managing your healthcare? A power of attorney designation for both financial and healthcare decisions can save your family a lot of anxiety.

 

5.     Establish a Philanthropic Legacy

It is wonderful when you give to charitable causes during your lifetime.  However, what if you prematurely die?  None of your assets will go to charity if you do not have an estate plan.  Consider life insurance proceeds when figuring how much to allocate to charitable endeavors within your estate plan.

 

Legacy

Creating or reviewing your estate plan offers peace of mind to you and your family members.  And yet, there is another significant benefit.  By living with intention and putting plans into place, you are opening yourself to transformation.  Jesus doesn’t transform just one aspect of our lives when we enter into a relationship with Him.  Rather, he transforms us completely. 

If your time on earth is shorter than expected, you may want to supplement estate documents with a family vision statement or letter.  This statement could outline your values and express love for your living and unborn children.

“Building and preserving family wealth isn’t an end in itself,” according to attorney Antoinette Bone. “Rather, it’s a tool for promoting shared family values—such as philanthropy, education, quality of life—or encouraging family members to lead responsible, productive, healthy lives. Drafting a family mission statement can be an effective way to define and communicate these values.”

When you pass away, your family will obviously be devastated.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to leave them a thoughtful message, sharing aspirations for children (and even grandchildren) for years to come?

Articulating a family mission shouldn’t be an afterthought.  Take the steps now to let your children know the mission while you’re living.  

Looking Ahead

Stay tuned if you’re interested in learning more of the estate planning lingo.  In the next blog post, I’ll go into detail about terminology such as Last Will and Testament, Revocable Trust, Irrevocable Trust, Executor, Trustee, Guardian, and Powers of Attorney.  That way, you will be knowledgeable before you step into an estate attorney’s office.

Estate planning is just one of the many topics covered in my book, Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living.  It’s available for presale now, so please order your copy today.  Then, scroll down to the bottom of that page for instructions on claiming your two pre-order bonuses.  And if you’re feeling extra generous, share the love: forward this blog post to friends and family!  Thanks for your support.  

Remember, you’re worthy of a brighter future.