Did you know that this week (October 15 – 21) is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Okay, I agree – we do already have too many “days” or “weeks” or “months” devoted to promoting good causes. But as an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney I’ll admit to being particularly partial to this one. That’s because I have often seen how poorly things can go for families who don’t plan in advance.
Estate Planning is about shaping the future – for yourself and for those you care about. It’s about protecting yourself and the people you love. It’s too important to procrastinate.
Your estate plan says who gets what after you are gone. But a well prepared plan does so much more. It also allows you to take care of yourself by appointing the right people to handle your affairs and make decisions for you if you become disabled. And it protects your spouse or partner, children and other beneficiaries from loss due to their incapacity, immaturity, creditors, family disputes and designing persons. A smart plan will reduce costs like taxes and administrative expenses, and help things go as smoothly as possible.
Estate planning uses tools like powers of attorney, health care directives, trusts, wills, beneficiary forms, and tax and long term care planning to increase our control over the uncertainties that face all of us. It does require that we face up to our mortality, and that means it can take some backbone to get started. Ultimately, most people feel a sense of relief and satisfaction when their planning is completed. We can’t control our future, but we can plan for it. And that feels pretty good.
So, this week is a great time to get started on preparing or updating your estate plan for your family.
Here is a copy of the Congressional Resolution creating National Estate Planning Awareness Week:
H. Res. 1499
In the House of Representatives, U. S.,
September 27, 2008.
Whereas a 2004 Roper poll commissioned by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants found that two-thirds of Americans over age 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement, and nearly one half of all Americans are unfamiliar with basic retirement tools, such as a 401(k) plan;
Whereas careful estate planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs, or charities;
Whereas estate planning involves many considerations, including safekeeping of important documents, documentation of assets, operation of law in the various States, preparation of legal instruments, insurance, availability of trust arrangements, charitable giving, inter vivos care of the benefactor, and other important factors;
Whereas estate planning encourages timely decisions about the method of holding title to certain assets, the designation of beneficiaries, and the possible transfer of assets during the life of the benefactor;
Whereas many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and ‘financial illiteracy’ may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate;
Whereas alternatives to disposition of assets after death, such as planned gift-giving, may accomplish a benefactor’s goal of providing for his or her family and favorite charities;
Whereas careful planning can prevent family members or other beneficiaries from being subjected to complex legal and administrative processes requiring significant expenditure of time, and greatly reduce confusion or even animosity among family members or other heirs upon the death of a loved one;
Whereas important considerations as to donation of organs and use of life support functions may be made through the estate planning process;
Whereas the implementation of an estate plan starts with sound education and planning, and then may require the proper drafting and execution of appropriate legal documents, including wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney for health care;
Whereas the third week of October should be designated as ‘National Estate Planning Awareness Week’; and
Whereas the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils, representing over 28,000 estate planning professionals, together with the Universal Press Syndicate, the largest independent newspaper syndicate in the world, are prepared to provide such educational information to the public in a focused manner during National Estate Planning Awareness Week: Now, therefore be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) encourages the distribution of estate planning information by professionals to all Americans; and
(2) supports the designation of a ‘National Estate Planning Awareness Week’.