As 2021 thankfully comes to a close, we naturally begin to think ahead to resolutions intended to change habits, improve our health or make things better for ourselves and our families. Resolutions are simply promises we make to ourselves. Perhaps your new year’s resolutions include walking 10,000+ steps each day, eating a cleaner diet or learning to meditate. Whatever your resolutions may be, consider adding to your list an important one: protecting your loved ones. Let’s look at some basic questions and see if you can answer the following:
- Who will take care of me if I can’t take care of myself? Do I have adequate insurance? Is there a clear successor to manage my financial and business affairs? Are my personal wishes set forth in writing so they are known and accessible when needed?
- After I am gone, how will my family and loved ones manage the debts, taxes and other legal obligations I leave behind? Have I created a way to reach important family and financial goals?
- Who will take over my business if I am disabled or gone? What can I do to increase the probability that my business will survive after me?
- Who will care for my young children if my spouse and I cannot? What financial protection and instructions have I left for their care?
- When and how will my spouse, children and other loved ones receive their inheritance? How can I be sure they receive their gifts in a manner which maximizes use and enjoyment but protects against creditors, predators or their own possible fiscal mismanagement?
Thinking about these matters can be absolutely overwhelming. But because we care about our families we are obligated to raise these tough questions and explore the answers. As spouses, we want to provide the resources and safeguards to make our loved ones’ futures more secure. As parents, we want our children to have a happy and secure life, especially if that life does not include us.
Why not resolve to start the process of caring for your family should something happen to you? The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wisely said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Your first step is to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney to design and put into place a plan which will ensure that these are promises you can keep. Fortunately, there are many qualified attorneys in the area. Speak to several. Do your research. Ask questions.
If you have already done your estate planning, good for you! Please also make a habit of reviewing your plan, including beneficiary designations for insurance policies, retirement accounts and 401(k) plans. Changes in your financial situation, family circumstances and the law may make the revision and updating of your estate plan essential.
Life can change in an instant. What are you waiting for?