Why Estate Planning Should Be One of Your New Year’s Resolutions
Studies indicate that about 40% to 50% of us make promises to improve as the calendar turns over to a new year. For 2024, your resolutions should include creating, or reviewing and updating, your estate plan.
New Year, New Estate Plan
An up-to-date estate plan not only ensures your financial goals and wishes are carried out after death, but also includes essential documents that protect you and your family during your lifetime if unexpected events occur.
If you do not have an estate plan, Michigan law determines who receives your property when you die, who makes your funeral and burial arrangements, and who administers your estate. A probate court judge will likely decide who cares for you and handles your finances if you become permanently or temporarily incapacitated. If you have minor children, a judge may also decide who cares for them and handles their finances if you die or become incapacitated.
It is also important to recognize that a proper estate plan includes much more than just a Will. Your plan should also include other important documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney in which you appoint a trusted person to make financial and property decisions if you become disabled and unable to make decisions. Another important document that should be included is a Patient Advocate Designation in which you appoint a trusted person to make health care and end of life care decisions should you become disabled. In addition, you and your family may benefit substantially from including a Revocable Living Trust in your estate plan, particularly if beneficiaries are minor children or persons who have issues with managing their finances.
In the absence of a complete estate plan, your loved ones will face difficult decisions when you die or if you become incapacitated during your life. The uncertainty about your wishes (and their own wishes) can then lead to family disagreements and disputes.
Why Do You Need to Review Your Estate Plan?
Making an estate plan is not “a set it and forget it” activity that you undertake. After you create your estate plan, it’s essential to review it regularly to ensure that all the provisions and documents in your plan reflect your current circumstances and goals. Failure to update documents in an estate plan creates a risk of unintended consequences.
Circumstances that affect an estate plan include:
- Births or adoption of children;
- Death of a family member, beneficiary, appointed power of attorney or patient advocate.
- Marriage or divorce;
- Children, grandchildren, family members and other beneficiaries reaching adulthood or
encountering changed circumstances;
- Disability or incapacity of a family member.
In addition, changes in your real estate, personal property and assets— including those relating to your business interests — may require revisions to your estate plan.
What Is the Best Time to Create or Review Your Estate Plan?
If you do not have an estate plan, the time to create one is now. If you do have an estate plan, you should carefully review it and consider any changes that may be needed. In either case, making it a goal for the coming new year to make or review your estate plan is a good strategy for you and your family.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Attorney to Accomplish Your New Year’s Estate Planning Resolutions
At Ager Law Office, Bill Ager helps individuals and families with all aspects of estate planning, including Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney for Property and Financial Matters, Patient Advocate Designations and Enhanced Life Estate Deeds (Lady Bird Deeds). From his Ann Arbor office, Bill Ager serves clients throughout Washtenaw County. To schedule a free consultation for an understanding of the cost of an estate plan specifically tailored to your needs, or for updating your existing plan, call (734) 649-0784, send an email to email@example.com, or use the online contact form on this website.