In just the first few weeks of 2016, Americans have mourned the loss of several music legends and cultural icons. Some of these deaths came as a great shock to us, because the people we admired died unexpectedly. If you have not put your affairs in order by making an estate plan and leaving instructions about your last wishes, these tragic events are a reminder you may need an estate plan when you least expect it.
Whether you want to make an estate plan to protect those you leave behind or your estate planning goals are based on ensuring things are handled the way you want, the following is a list of reasons to get started on your estate planning documents in 2016:
1. To ensure a living will or health care directives are in place if you suddenly become ill or suffer a serious injury.
2. To preserve family property or assets by making a trust.
3. To ensure your spouse and children are protected by taking steps such as making a will, purchasing life insurance, verifying title to property, and naming beneficiaries on bank, investment, and retirement accounts.
4. To prevent your pets from being sent to a shelter by making a pet trust.
5. To leave instructions for your final arrangements to ensure your memorial preferences regarding a funeral, burial or cremation are followed.
6. To avoid leaving your heirs with a legal mess that could result in a will contest or dispute over your estate.
7. To take advantage of current estate and gift tax rates.
If making an estate plan has been on your mind but you have not been motivated enough to take action in the past, the tragedies we have witnessed at the start of 2016 illustrate the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. For the resources you need to make an estate plan, see our estate planning page and our list of free estate planning forms.