Many people put off estate planning, thinking they have plenty of time or that it is a task for the distant future. Delaying the creation of an estate plan, however, can lead to significant risks and complications for you and your loved ones. Recent reports indicate that fewer Americans are preparing or maintaining their estate plans than ever, which leaves them vulnerable in times of crisis. We want to take a minute to let you know just a few of the reasons why you should prioritize your estate plan immediately and work with an experienced estate planning attorney to get it done.

To begin, unexpected crises can happen at any time. Life is unpredictable, and a sudden illness, accident, or death can occur without warning. In such situations, having a comprehensive estate plan ensures that your wishes are followed and your family is taken care of. Without an estate plan, not only could your family be left in chaos, your assets could be distributed according to state laws, which may not align with your preferences.

In the event of an emergency, someone needs to have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. An estate plan allows you to appoint a trusted individual as your agent under your durable power of attorney or health care decision maker. This gives them the legal right to manage your affairs if you are incapacitated. This is crucial for ensuring your medical and financial decisions are handled as you would want and that crucial time is not wasted establishing this much needed decision making power.

Further, in today’s digital age, much of our personal and financial information is online. Discuss with your attorney whether or not your estate plan should address the management of your digital assets, including online banking, social media accounts, and other digital properties. Your attorney can share with you why designating someone with the authority to handle these assets is essential for protecting your digital legacy and ensuring seamless transitions.

One of the significant benefits of estate planning is avoiding the probate process, which can be lengthy, expensive, and stressful for your heirs. A well-structured estate plan can also minimize the tax burden on your estate, preserving more of your wealth for your beneficiaries. Without clear instructions, family members may have a dispute over your assets and decisions, leading to conflicts and strained relationships. An estate plan clearly outlines your wishes, reducing the potential for disagreements and ensuring a smoother process during an already difficult time.

Most importantly, however, if you have minor children and four-legged loved ones, an estate plan is indispensable. You can designate a guardian to care for your children in the event of your untimely death, ensuring they are raised by someone you trust. Your attorney can also let you know how your four-legged family members can be cared for. This provides peace of mind that your children and pets will be cared for according to your wishes.

We know this article raises more questions than it answers.  Creating an estate plan involves navigating complex legal and financial landscapes. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand your options and develop a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs. They can also ensure your plan remains up to date with any changes in your life or the law. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.