Somewhere between the turkey, the parties, the presents, and the countdown to the New Year, something is nagging at the back of your mind…and it's not whether you should have another slice of pecan pie.
It's not just you. Search data shows that queries about estate planning tend to spike right after people start settling down from the fun and festivities. Maybe the family gathering reminded them of the loved ones they were missing. Maybe a relative seemed to have a little trouble getting around this year. Maybe they got on a plane and anxiety set in about the unknown. Whatever the reason, the season strikes a chord.
Unfortunately, however, statistics tell us that the New Year's resolution to get your estate plan together will likely be packed away with the champagne flutes as so many other resolutions are. The problem is that no one knows what changes will occur between this holiday season and the next. Here are some tips make sure you and your loved ones aren't left out in the cold:
1. While you're surrounded by friends and family, start thinking about who you would trust to make decisions or carry out your wishes. It doesn't have to be a single person, and different relatives may be better suited for different areas of your estate plan. Don't forget, your estate plan won't just include what happens after your death. You'll also be planning for the possibility of incapacity, so make sure you account for someone to make financial, healthcare, and child (or pet!) care decisions in the event that you are unable to do it yourself.
2. Consider any existing documents you may have. Many people have documents drawn up during major events in their lives, but they don't commit to maintaining them when things change. Take a moment to review the people and possessions you have listed on these documents and make a note of who and what needs updating.
3. Keep in mind that you aren't the only one thinking about this, and you're certainly not the only one who may need to make or update a plan! You may want to take a moment to discuss some of these things with close relatives to avoid any surprises. It's possible that they're also worrying over who to choose. You don't want to be the person in charge of an intestate estate if they fail to plan. Fortunately, opening the discussion with thoughts on your own estate/incapacity planning is a natural way to ease into the conversation.
4. Finally, remember that you aren't on your own in your planning. Every plan will be different, and no one has seen more of these plans than your estate planning attorneys. It's your responsibility to start planning, but they will make sure you don't miss any of the essentials and help you plan smarter for scenarios you may not have considered. If you're interested in learning more about what you or a loved one should include in an estate plan, register for one of our free workshops.