Have you ever received an invitation to a free lunch or dinner from a financial institution, encouraging you to listen to their presentation on estate planning? You probably thought it wasn’t worth your time, because only wealthy people need estate plans. Actually EVERYONE needs one.
So what is an estate plan anyway? It is a plan you create that allows those who are left behind at your death to know exactly what you want them to do with all of your stuff! This can be done primarily through documents such as a will and/or trust, and through organizing your personal and financial information. I cannot stress enough how important this is! For example, do you have a will? If so, who is your personal representative? Does that person know where your will is? Does he/she know what bank you use? Do you have a safe deposit box? Where do you keep the key to it? There are many more questions that are asked at a person’s death that, if proper planning wasn’t done, can make handling your affairs very difficult.
In addition to this, decisions have to be made concerning guardianship of minor children, providing support for family members, personal items you may want to go to a special friend or family member, who to contact for legal, tax, and insurance matters, etc. Many times, I talk to people who want to leave something to their church or other charity. Unless they make their intentions known formally in writing, the personal representative cannot make those intended gifts. So you see, estate planning is not just dealing with how to handle vast sums of money. It is dealing with everything you own and everyone you love.
I recently learned of the death of a friend’s brother and the impending death of her uncle. In asking for prayers, she stressed the importance of having all of your estate planning papers in order and placed where someone could find them. Unfortunately, her family is facing some tough decisions because of the lack of estate planning by her relatives. Make it easy for those left behind to handle your affairs. If you need help, you can contact your local attorney or the Baptist Foundation of SC for tools to get you started. Make this your summer project!