This year we’ve undergone an unprecedented pandemic, threatening thousands of lives in addition to the livelihood of countless more. Many are taking steps to secure their assets, wills, and power of attorney. While we discourage panic and remain optimistic, it’s always wise to have one’s affairs in order. If you haven’t previously considered estate planning, even if you’re all in good health, this can be a good reminder that it’s never too early to plan. Here’s a few things to consider when undergoing estate planning for the first time.
Consider Children, Dependents, & Pets First
Should the unthinkable happen, you want to ensure that your children and pets are properly cared for, as well as any other dependents. The first consideration is always those who will not be able to pick up the pieces for themselves should you no longer be around to care for them. Involved in planning with them in mind, the top things to have planned are your last will and testament, and power of attorney. Each of these serves a specific purpose. Should you wind up in the hospital, unable to make decisions for your children & dependents, power of attorney ensures that someone you trust is allowed to make decisions on your behalf. Power of attorney must be established by you while you are mentally competent. While we hope your trusted person will never need to use it, it’s good to set it up while you’re able.
Your last will and testament is a document which contains instructions in the event of your passing. This includes not only distribution of assets, but also crucial decisions regarding your children and dependents. During this process, you’ll need to establish custody for your children, estate distribution, and any asset beneficiaries. Should you pass without a last will and testament, the court will appoint a guardian for your children. Although courts do the best job they can, it’s important for you, as a parent, to think about these events in advanced, however unlikely and unpleasant they may be.
When preparing for estate planning, take an inventory of all of your significant assets. While a tedious task, this is a great way to fill time spent at home during the pandemic. There are many great resources online to help you get started. Think about the following assets: Your home and any assets within it, personal items of significant monetary or sentimental value, your business and all of its assets, digital assets you may possess, and any shares or investments you hold. Organizing all your assets is the first step towards good estate planning. Your attorney will help you get everything in order and locate any missed pieces. When taking inventory it’s a good idea to begin to think about where and to whom each item should go in the event of your untimely departure.
Prepare with People
Finally, when beginning your estate planning, decide who will be involved in the process. You’ll need to find a good attorney to help you plan and file (tip: we love doing estate plans!). You’ll also need to choose an executor who will be responsible for implementing your last will and testament. Remember also to speak with someone you trust regarding power of attorney, should you be unable to make your own decisions. Lastly, consider your personal legacy. During this process, many people write letters, film videos, or other memoirs to be given to their loved ones upon their departure. Some build collections of photos, sentimental trinkets, or other meaningful memorabilia. Although estate planning may not bring out the most exciting of thoughts, it’s a good opportunity to ponder your life, legacy, and how you want to be remembered upon your departure.
While this is nowhere near an exhaustive list, it’s a good way to begin thinking about your estate and affairs. This pandemic is frightening for us all, but it can also be an opportunity to slow down and reflect upon our lives and what and whom we love. When you’re ready to begin your estate planning journey in Washington State, Orbit Wills will be here to walk you through it. Learn more about our process to get started!