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Halloween Horror: Plan Ahead to Avoid the Scary Consequences of Not Having an Estate Plan

As Halloween approaches and we eagerly prepare for spooky celebrations, it’s the perfect time to shed light on another kind of “horror” that often goes overlooked. Picture this: a scenario scarier than any haunted house—dying without your estate plan in order. The eerie uncertainty that follows can haunt your loved ones long after you’re gone. So, just how far in advance should you begin planning your estate? Let’s dive into the ghoulish details and unveil the secrets of a well-prepared afterlife plan.

How Far in Advance Can I Begin My Estate Planning?


You can create your estate plan at any time, but many people choose to begin the process
sooner rather than later. Why? Because you never know when life-changing medical or financial
emergencies can strike that will require someone else to manage your affairs during your
lifetime.


When Should You Start?


When to start planning for your estate depends on your goals and the size and complexity of
your estate. If your estate involves business interests, multiple properties, significant
investments, or complex family dynamics, creating a comprehensive plan may require more
time.


While there is no specific age requirement to create an estate plan, at a minimum, you should
create financial and medical powers of attorney when you legally become an adult. Once you
accumulate some money and property, you should create a more comprehensive estate plan.


Many young adults start families and have minor children who rely on them for support, which
could require a guardianship being established for the children should something happen to
both parents. Consequently, when you have minor children, you need to create a plan.


What Are Your Concerns?


Estate planning can prepare you for medical emergencies such as accidents and illness that
could leave you temporarily or permanently incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.
Advance healthcare directives including living wills and medical powers of attorney should
ideally be established while you are still in good health to ensure your wishes for care and
treatment are known.


You may also consider various aspects of your life, money, and property that hold significance
for you and your beneficiaries. These considerations can go beyond financial resources and
encompass your broader legacy and personal values, and they should be part of your estate
plan:


● You can create a family mission statement to help guide future generations toward a
goal that is meaningful to you, such as environmental responsibility or giving back to the
community through faith or philanthropy.
● You can set conditions that reward specific behaviors such as building a productive
career or business, maintaining health and wellness, or expanding financial literacy.
● You can contribute to a 529 plan or directly to education institutions to highlight the
importance of a quality education for children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. If
one beneficiary does not use the funds, it can often be passed to another.
● You can start a foundation or limited liability company to provide direction and purpose
for family wealth. Encourage certain family members to fill roles within the organization
that they may enjoy or that match their natural talents.


There are many ways to preserve your legacy and values while ensuring the success of future
generations.


Different Stages of Life and Circumstances


When significant changes happen to you or your family, they become reasons to create an
estate plan or update an existing one. Your estate plan is a living set of documents, not a one-
and-done task to cross off your list of things to do. Here are a few events that require contacting
your estate planning attorney:


● Marriage and divorce
● Birth and adoption
● Death of a spouse or child
● Purchase or sale of significant property and investments
● Starting a business
● Receiving an inheritance


Depending on your current stage in life, you may be able to create an estate plan to suit your
situation that may only require several essential documents. When planning at a younger age,
your plan may include just a few documents, such as a will and medical and financial powers of
attorney. Ultimately, your plan will evolve to include many more details that require careful
consideration throughout your lifetime and may require establishment of additional documents,
such as advance directives for end-of-life care and the use of a trust to protect your hard-earned
money and allow you to take advantage of more advanced planning strategies.


Each decision you make during the estate planning process will significantly impact your money
and property, your loved ones, and the future distribution of your wealth. That is why estate
plans should be routinely reviewed to ensure they continue to align with your goals, are relevant
to your current situation, and keep up with the legal and financial landscape.


What Immediate Circumstances Are Urging You to Plan?


Your stage of life could determine the timing and urgency of your decisions. Certain events may
also create an urgency to plan:


● If you are expecting a child, you may want to establish guardianship arrangements
through your will or a separate document, designate a trustee to manage accounts and
property on your child’s behalf, and create a plan to provide for their education and
upbringing.
● If you are getting ready to close on a new vacation home, you may wish to consider how
the property fits into your broader estate plan and legacy.
● If your grandparent or other family member has failing health and recently shared
documents with you that name you as a beneficiary of their considerable estate, you can
begin to align anticipated funds with your overall financial goals.
● If you are an entrepreneur or business owner ready for retirement, you can outline a
succession plan, identify key individuals who will take over your business, and establish
strategies to ensure the continuity and success of your business.

The chaos, confusion, and financial distress your loved ones may face without a proper plan can be truly terrifying. Don’t let procrastination cast a shadow over your family’s future. Start the process early, and let the season of costumes and candy serve as a reminder that it’s never too soon to plan for the security and peace of mind that comes with a well-structured estate plan. Just as we face our fears during this spooky season, confront the fear of an unplanned future and ensure your legacy is one of comfort and assurance. Happy Halloween, and happy estate planning!

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