Before you settle into your routine for the new year, resolve to create or update your estate planning documents in the next few months. If you think you do not need an estate plan, you may wish to rethink that position.
Many Oregonians mistakenly believe that estate plans are only for the wealthy. With the recent change to estate tax laws - bumping the exclusion amount over $5 million and over $10.5 million for married couples - many people believe they have no use for estate planning. However, estate plans do much more than protect your hard-earned assets from federal estate taxation.
Important considerations for estate planning
According to a study by the HSBC - an international financial services company -U.S. retirees expect to leave an average of $175,000 to their families upon their deaths. While these families will not incur any estate tax liability, leaving a legacy of any size, can lead to bitter family disputes and will contests.
An article published by The Wall Street Journal late last year brought to light what many estate litigation lawyers always know: people do not care about inheriting money nearly as much as they do about receiving personal items for which they have sentimental value. A vast majority of Americans over the age of 50 claim that they far prefer receiving items of tangible personal property such as:
- Family stories and histories kept in journals or letters
- Family heirlooms
- Personal keepsakes
For example, while siblings may not argue about splitting $50,000 in life insurance proceeds, a family feud can easily erupt over grandpa's gun collection or mom's china set. After the death of a loved one, mourning family members forget what dad said to do with the painting in the dining room or whom mother said would get her favorite piece of jewelry.
Avoiding family disputes
Knowing what really matters to your family is the first step in averting possible squabbles between them once you are gone. Although it may not be easy at first, talk with your children about your end-of-life desires and find out what their needs and wishes are. You may be surprised to learn that no one wants to inherit the family vacation home or that your youngest child has his or her heart set on keeping all of the family photos.
Create a memorandum, listing personal items and designating which family members will take them when you are no longer able to keep them. The memorandum should be specifically mentioned in your will. If you have conducted family discussions about who gets what, administration of your estate should go more smoothly.
A lawyer can help
If you do not have an estate plan or have not recently updated your plan, consult an experienced Oregon lawyer. An estate planning attorney knowledgeable about probate, estate and trust administration and dispute avoidance can help you craft your personalized estate plan.