Estate Planning Documents

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

If you are amongst the estimated 120,000,000 Americans who do not have up-to-date estate plans, you probably do not know that this week, October 17–23, 2011, is National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  In 2008, the House of Representatives passed a bill making the third week in October a week to build awareness of the need for estate planning and to educate the public regarding estate planning resources and services.

This bill was passed in response to the general lack of awareness that many Americans have as to the importance of estate planning and the consequences of not having a plan in place.  Many Americans assume that only the wealthy need estate planning, but in a time when life expectancies are rising along with the cost of healthcare and retirement planning is falling increasingly on the shoulders of the individual, no one can afford to be without a plan for the future.

So if you are one of those Americans without an updated estate plan, this is a great time for you to take that step to safeguard your future security and that of your family and loved ones.  Careful estate planning can be an essential tool to ensure that you have adequate funds for retirement, that the assets you have built up over your lifetime are preserved for the benefit of your family and heirs, and that, should you in the future be unable to make healthcare or financial decisions, the person of your choice is designated to do so for you.

If you are interested in learning more about the estate planning options that would be most appropriate for your situation, you can visit the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC) website for educating the public about the many aspects of estate planning (http://www.estateplanninganswers.org/) or you can call and make an appointment to speak to one of our firm’s estate planning attorneys..

Beneficiary Designations: Do you know where your money is going?

When you die, most of your property will be passed to your heirs according to your will or other estate planning documents (assuming you have contacted us first!).  However, if you happen to have a bank account, brokerage account, retirement account, annuity, 529 account or life insurance policy, which, let’s face it, nearly everyone does, these assets will be passed according to the beneficiary designation on file with the administrator of that account.  All too often, a beneficiary designation is a piece of paper filled out when an account is set up and is then quickly forgotten by the account owner.  This article by Bill Bischoff of Smartmoney.com examines how not reviewing beneficiary designations on a regular basis can lead to unintended, disastrous (and costly) results.

The moral of the story is that you should review your beneficiary designations at least once a year or whenever a significant life event (a birth, death, marriage or divorce are the most common) occurs.  Checking your beneficiary designations usually takes a few minutes and is an easy way to ensure that your estate planning goals are met.

For more information about beneficiary designations or to schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys to review your estate plan, please contact our firm at (608) 837-7386.

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