Estate Planning Lessons Learned in the Holiday Bustle

My son just got home for his holiday break from college. Most of us look forward to these winter holidays as a time to spend with family, enjoy the spirit of giving, and even relax a few days away from the stress of our jobs. Every year we hear about how stressful the holidays are, and yet we look forward to them anyway. Come to think of it…why is it that estate planning—another activity rife with benefits that admittedly comes with a little stress—is often avoided at all costs? In truth, the things we do to make our holiday planning more enjoyable and less stressful can be applied to estate planning as well:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute. Not doing our shopping (or planning) ahead of time often means we won’t get what we want. The same can be true of estate planning. Some areas of planning (specifically planning for Medi-Cal, retirement, and long-term care) must begin at least a few years before you think you’ll need it.
  2. You can’t please everybody. Just as blended families have to come to terms with the fact that they won’t please every in-law every year, you have to accept that you may not be able to please all of your children or heirs in your estate plan. In the end, an estate plan is about your assets and your wishes.
  3. Planning ahead makes execution easier. Everyone knows that braving the stores at the height of the holiday season is much easier if you’ve thought ahead and already know what you’re getting. Estate planning also benefits from a little bit of forethought, and the whole process runs smoothly if you go into your attorney’s office already having made a list of assets, goals, and people you trust.
  4. Expect to get what you pay for. Paying $5 for the tree in the corner of the lot doesn’t mean you’ve gotten a deal; more often it means you’ve gotten a tree that will lose all its needles in the next couple of days. Don’t make the mistake of getting a “deal” on an estate plan that won’t withstand the test of time. Beware of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  5. Don’t forget the extras. That radio controlled car looks nice under the tree, but it’s not much fun if you’ve forgotten the batteries to make it go. Your estate plan may also require some “extras” to make it work: funding of trust, personal property memorandum, letters of notification to fiduciaries, etc.

With a little planning your holidays—and your estate—can be easier and less stressful. Call our office to get started on your estate plan before the year is over.