It’s February! Valentine’s Day is almost here and with it comes another reason to show your loved ones that you care. Chocolate, flowers, a quiet dinner out, or a heartfelt note are all great options. As an estate planning attorney, I have other suggestions for how to demonstrate your love this February. Consider a few of the following acts of service:
- Prepare an estate plan. I think of an estate plan as a gift to loved ones. By having a plan in place for what happens if you become incapacitated and after your death, you’re making things easier for the people taking care of you and winding up your affairs. With an effective estate plan, you’re letting your loved ones know who you want to make health care or financial decisions for you if you can’t, what those health care decisions should be, and how your property should be distributed after you die. You’re also giving them the ability to manage your finances and make health care decisions for you if you can’t, avoiding an expensive and time-consuming court process if a conservator or guardian needs to be appointed. By having made these important decisions in advance, you make things easier for your loved ones during an emotional and difficult time.
- Make sure your estate plan is up to date. Having an estate plan is a crucial first step, but keeping it updated is important as well. Has your life changed since you last saw your estate planning attorney? If it’s been more than three years, I would bet that it has. Everything from a birth, to a death, to a divorce, to a change in a friendship, to the purchase of a new home, or even opening a new brokerage account, could effect your estate plan. Changes in the law, and there have been numerous changes recently and more may be coming, also may necessitate an update in your estate plan.
- Don’t disinherit your loved ones who are struggling. You don’t have to disinherit someone because you’re concerned that they will waste or abuse their inheritance. If you have loved ones who are struggling (I’m not talking about the people you actually want to disinherit here), meaning, for example, they have an addiction problem, they are terrible with finances and managing money, or they receive government benefits and an inheritance might make them lose those benefits, you don’t have to write them out of your estate plan. The right type of trust can allow your loved ones to inherit from you, and control or limit spending, or allow government benefits to be maintained, so that you can still provide for them.
- Check on the seniors in your life. This should probably be broader – more like, reach out to the friends and family members you haven’t seen in awhile. We never know how long we have on this earth. It’s so cliché, I understand that, but sometimes it just needs to sink in. For our aging loved ones, especially, reaching out is important. Checking in, with a visit, phone call, or video call, can give you the opportunity to connect with and support them, and also the opportunity to assess how they’re doing. Do they look well, how are they cognitively, do they have the practical help at home they need?
- Set up your Apple Legacy contact. I know I’m completely changing topics here – but it can be difficult to access a loved one’s digital accounts after they die. And our phones contain so much of our lives, including important photos and videos. Setting up a legacy contact while you’re alive and well can make things so much easier. You can do this for many other digital accounts, including Google and Facebook.
- And a bonus – take care of your self. Hitting the clichés here – but you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re caring for a sick or aging loved one, taking care of young children, or maybe even doing both as part of the growing “sandwich” generation, taking care of yourself too is critical. Taking the time to eat healthy, real food, making time for movement, and connecting with friends are all an important part of self-care. When we’re not doing those things, we can be less present and capable of helping. And of course, many things can limit or extend our time here – but taking care of ourselves can help.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Call a dedicated estate planning attorney to help you and your loved ones plan for peace of mind with an estate plan appropriate for you. Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 if you’d like assistance with updating or developing a comprehensive estate or elder law plan.
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Written January 28, 2024 by Stephanie Martinez