Lately, it seems that the majority of my clients made their appointments to have their estate planning documents drafted because they were planning on traveling away from home. The fear is that if something should happen to them while they are on vacation or if the plane should go down, what would happen to their assets and children. Statistically however, a person is more likely to die within a five mile radius of their home than in a plane crash! Frankly, whatever the reason is that convinces people to have their Wills and related estate documents prepared is of no consequence. The end result is the same – peace of mind. The peace of mind knowing that their affairs and family will be taken care of according to their wishes in the event of a tragedy.
Another reason I hear from clients is after there has been a death in the family. They want to make sure that their own affairs are in order so that their loved ones do not have to experience the same painful process gone through when administering the estate of the person who had passed. Usually, the person died without their legal documents in place and the deceased has left behind a real mess for his/her loved ones to deal with. This certainly adds to the emotional toll! Family members feel it is very burdensome to be left with trying to find assets amongst personal possessions. Many times accounts have been closed or there are no paper statements. This is due to everything being digital and the financial information is “up in a cloud,” only to be found with some expensive IT assistance. There are usernames and passwords that are needed to gain access to spreadsheets, bank accounts, retirement information, etc. Without those being known by the family, how can assets be located? Prior to the advent of computers and online accounts, an executor or administrator of an estate could retrieve the decedent’s mail for bank statements. There were either monthly or quarterly statements that would be delivered and provide the crucial information. These assets need to be distributed, taxes need to be calculated, bills need to be paid, and paperwork needs to be filed.
For the most part, being prepared and having an estate plan in your arsenal of important papers, will help those you leave behind. It is an immense burden taken off of your loved ones if you plan in advance. They will genuinely thank you for having the foresight and consideration in securing a smoother transition of assets and possessions. Not only will advance preparation save a great deal of time during a very difficult period, but there will surely be added expenses incurred as a result of poor prior planning. Although you may not be around any longer to experience the relief afforded your family with your responsible planning, once you’ve completed the process of estate planning, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, relief and the peace of mind that we all seek.