There's one critical move that a large number of older Americans have yet to make: creating a will.
Motley Fool’s article, “Nearly Half of Americans 55 and Over Are Making This Huge Financial Planning Mistake,” notes that almost 50% of Americans 55 and older don’t have an estate plan. If you’re missing a plan, it’s critical to take the time to get these important documents written, before something tragic happens and heirs are left in the lurch.
While creating an estate plan might be uncomfortable, delaying won’t keep you from having to contemplate your own mortality. Not creating an estate plan places your family in a tough spot, if something happens and there’s no plan.
Another reason that people put off writing an estate plan, is that they don’t want to make their children uncomfortable by getting them involved in the process. Adult children are also frequently hesitant to start a dialog about parents’ estate planning. Nonetheless, those discussions are important to have.
Wills, trusts, and estate plans are not just for wealthy people. If you own anything, including a home, a car, and any bank accounts, you need an estate plan.
If you don’t have an estate plan, you won’t have the opportunity to direct the way in which your property is distributed. Instead, the laws of probate will instruct how your investments and belongings are disbursed after your death.
Once you have the documents created, keep them in a safe place—no, not in a shoebox under your bed. Instead, buy a fireproof safe and store them there. In addition, give your children or loved one's access, so they’re able to locate your plan in the event that it’s required.
It’s common to get advice that you should store your estate plan in a safe deposit box at your bank. That works if your children or other trusted people in your life are permitted access to it. However, if you’re the only account holder on that safe deposit box, your family may need to go through some legal machinations to get into it. When you enlist the help of an estate planning attorney to create your estate planning documents, she should also be informed of where you have stored the original documents. That’s another great benefit to having an attorney create your plan, rather than going it alone.
Creating a plan can be an unpleasant business, but it’s not something you should put off. Having the documents in place will give you peace of mind—you’ll know that your wishes will be executed as you desire. That’s reason enough to stop delaying and get going. If you’re interested in speaking with one of our experienced Madison area estate planning attorneys, we invite you to request a consultation.