It can be easy to procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. After all, thinking about going through financial information and preparing for the future can be about as entertaining as going to the dentist. It may not be fun, but you know that attending to these tasks sooner rather than later will make a significant difference down the road. Although it’s something we know we need to do, a surprising number of Americans don’t have an estate plan. If you are in that group, you may wonder: Have I waited too long to estate plan?
More than Half of All Americans Need a Will
Last year, a study found that more than half of Americans over age 55 don’t have a will. The same report revealed that only eighteen percent of people in that group have a will, a healthcare directive, and power of attorney. Forty-three percent of study participants over 55 reported being worried that they did not have anyone to advocate for them in their later years. Despite these findings, most of those in the study believed that having their affairs in order by age 50 should be a priority.
Why Aren’t People Estate Planning
Researchers posited different theories as to what has been preventing people from estate planning. One thought was that death is an uncomfortable subject that most people wish to avoid. However, according to the data, a staggering ninety percent of people were open to talking about end-of-life options with their loved ones. One thing that might be holding people back from estate planning is not knowing where to start. When you have no idea how to prepare, it can be easy to put the task aside.
The good news is that even if you have waited years, there is still time to create an estate plan that can help you maintain control over important issues and be prepared for the future. Additionally, by planning ahead, you can help protect your loved ones and make sure your assets are divided according to your wishes.
How do I Start Estate Planning?
With estate planning, if you wait for the perfect time to begin, you will probably never get started. The important thing is to take action rather than continuing to delay. One of the best ways to examine your situation and determine what you require is to meet with an experienced California estate planning attorney. You and your attorney can review your goals and identify the best estate planning devices to meet your needs. Once you have met with your attorney, you will have defined tasks to complete, such as gathering relevant financial documents, identifying potential beneficiaries and heirs, and determining whom you would like to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Your California Estate Plan
Once you have all of the necessary information, your estate planning attorney will be able to draft your will. This document is central to your estate plan as it will allow you to direct where your assets will go when you die and express your final wishes. For parents, a will is also used to name proposed guardians for minor children.
You and your attorney may also decide that you could benefit from having a living trust. Depending on its terms, this legal device can allow you to benefit from trust assets during your lifetime while still maintaining control over the trust. When you die, the trust assets will pass directly to your beneficiaries according to the trust terms rather than having to go through probate.
Your Advance Health Care Directive will provide a way for you to have a designated medical decisionmaker act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This directive can also be used to give your medical providers specific instructions regarding your care and treatment. A power of attorney for finances permits you to designate an agent to act on your behalf when it comes to financial matters. This document can grant broad or narrow powers to the agent during your incapacity. Both of these devices are essential parts of a comprehensive California estate plan. Your attorney can help you get these in place, so if there is an illness or accident, the person you want can be there to advocate for you and your interests.
Having a California estate planning attorney to provide guidance can help make the process easier and less daunting. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are trust and estate planning attorneys with experience assisting clients to prepare for the future. We can help you review your situation and determine the best measures to put in place for your needs and goals. Please contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment today. /contact/