By David Shea, Managing Partner
It is no secret we live in a world filled with uncertainty. The recent COVID-19 global pandemic is a vivid reminder that with disruptions to our normal way of life, you should take steps to protect you and your family by creating an effective estate plan. While the term ‘estate planning’ itself may conjure up images of 10-car garages and countryside manors, rest assured that having a proper plan in place is important for everyone to consider, regardless of socio-economic status. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your affairs are in order in case of an emergency-event.
Put A Plan In Place: If you have not gotten around to creating an estate plan, you are in good company; by most estimates, between 60-70% of American adults do not have even basic documents such as a Will or Power of Attorney directive in place. The reasons vary. For some, it is simply a matter of not having gotten around to it. For others, it may be cost-prohibitive, or they may incorrectly believe they don’t have enough ‘stuff’ (money, property, insurance policies, etc.) to warrant creating an estate plan. But having a properly built estate plan is critical to people of all ages and tax brackets…not just the aging, or the wealthy. While it is true a good estate plan will help ensure your assets are transferred to your loved ones privately and in the manner of your choosing, there are many more aspects to estate planning to consider. For instance, who would care for your minor children? Or who will make your medical decisions or pay your bills if you become too ill? These are but a few questions that an estate plan can help answer. Estate planning is a topic that is easy to put off for many, but it is important to address the issue now before it becomes too late. If you become incapacitated or die without an estate plan in place, you will create stress and chaos for your loved ones.
Review Your Plan Regularly: So you finally took the plunge. You researched local attorneys, set an appointment, and put your estate plan in place. It’s a good feeling, but once created, it is important to think of your plan as a living document and not something to tuck away up on a shelf somewhere collecting dust! Shifts in family dynamics, financial position, and changes to state and federal laws are all factors that can render even the most expertly drafted plan ineffective without regular reviews and updates. At Shea Law, we encourage our clients to schedule annual reviews to make sure the estate planning documents continue to reflect their wishes.
Encourage Family Members to Create A Plan of Their Own: It can be difficult to talk to parents, siblings, and adult children about their estate plan, but it is important to recognize that the costs, headaches, and hang-ups stemming from loved ones not having a proper plan in place is likely to fall on you and the rest of your family when they become incapacitated or die. Whether they work with the same attorney as you, or find their own, the important thing is that they work with an experienced, attentive estate planning attorney that can help them develop a plan of their own.
Keep Your Estate Documents in a secure place, and make sure those you elected to act on your behalf are informed of their potential duties: Store your documents in a safe place where they will be protected from the elements. It is a good idea to store a digital copy of your documents on your computer, USB drive, or cloud service such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Apple’s iCloud. Inform your loved ones that you created an estate plan, and make sure your chosen fiduciaries are aware of what their duties entail. This will help ensure a seamless transition when the need arises.
At Shea Law, we hope you will consider these simple, yet effective steps to ensure peace of mind knowing you provided a clear, directed path for your loved ones to follow after your passing. We have prepared over 40,000 estate plans over the last 20 years, and have seen first-hand how grateful our clients are to know their loved ones will not be exposed to the whims of the court system, medical facilities, and even in some cases disgruntled family members or friends. This is why we are so passionate about what we do. Choosing the right attorney to guide you through this process is highly personal, but necessary. It is important to select an experienced attorney who specializes in this area of the law and is keenly aware of your personal family dynamics and needs.
Our lawyers are seasoned, compassionate attorneys who can expertly guide you through the sometimes tough but rewarding process of creating an estate plan of your own. Feel free to contact our office today or visit us at www.sadplaw.com if you are interested in a complimentary consultation, or even if you have general questions about estate planning.
David J. Shea is the founding and managing partner of Michigan-based Shea Law, which specializes in commercial litigation and estate planning. Mr. Shea has been featured in Crain’s Detroit Business, DBusiness, Thomson Reuter’s SuperLaywers Top 100, Hour Magazine, and Leading Lawyers. The firm’s estate planning department has more than 20 years of experience creating thousands of estate plans for clients throughout Michigan.