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Estate Planning: The Benefits for You, Your Family, and Your Community

Posted on March 21, 2016

Sometimes, the most important conversations are the ones that we don’t want to have, especially with our loved ones.

Estate planning is often avoided because it is associated with negative events, like illness or the end of a life. But making your plans early, and clearly communicating your goals can actually be a practical and even positive undertaking.

So why is estate planning important and how can it be beneficial for you, your family, and your community? Follow along in this post to find out.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning means to make a plan for your assets and belongings after you have passed away or in the event of an emergency.

It typically includes three documents:

A Last Will and Testament. A Last Will is used to outline who you want to leave your assets to after you have passed away. In your Will, you outline who your beneficiaries are, and what you want to leave to each one. It also names an executor, who will ensure that your last wishes are followed.

A Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a document that allows someone to act on your behalf in financial, real estate, or legal matters if you are unable to. These documents can be temporary for short-term illnesses, or permanent, for long-term illnesses.

A Health Care Directive. A Health Care Directive is what describes your personal health care wishes in the event of an emergency. It lists your preferences about things like resuscitation, palliative care, and whether you want to donate organs.

Why is Estate Planning Important?

Estate planning is important for many reasons, not only for you, but for your family as well.

Some of the benefits include:
• Choosing who you leave gifts and assets to.
• Taking the responsibility of making stressful decisions off of your family members.
• Ensuring that any specific wishes or preferences you have are followed.
• Having control over your belongings and end of life plans.

Clear end-of-life plans help to give your family a path to follow during the grieving process. They also help to ensure that friends, charities, or other beneficiaries don’t get left out when your assets are divided.

Using Your Estate Plans for Good

Estate planning can actually do a lot of good, both for your family and within your community. Just as you can leave behind gifts to your loved ones, you can leave gifts and donations to charities and other organizations that are important to you.

Planned giving is a big part of what helps charities to continue their work. By leaving behind a legacy gift, you are ensuring that you support an organization that is near and dear to you, instead of leaving them out because you forgot to include them in your estate plans.

When you leave behind a donation, or a gift such as a car, property, or investment, you are helping to secure the future of your favourite charity or organization, which allows them to continue to give back to the community and help those in need.

When Should I Start Estate Planning?

Although many people think that estate planning is for seniors, it can be done at any point in your life. In fact, the earlier that you start estate planning, the better prepared you will be for an unexpected emergency or accident.

You should always review your estate plans after a major life event, like:
• The birth or adoption of a child.
• The death of a beneficiary, personal representative, or executor.
• A marriage or divorce.
• A significant increase in personal assets or debts.

Remember to keep your estate documents in a safe place, like a safe deposit box or with your lawyer, and let your executor know where to find them.

Getting Your Affairs in Order

Estate planning doesn’t need to be daunting. As long as you maintain clear communication and understand your goals, completing them can actually be simple and stress-free.

By taking control and having those important conversations now, you are giving yourself the chance to help your family, yourself, and your community, even after you have passed away.

Brittany Foster is the Marketing Coordinator for LawDepot, a site that specializes in do-it-yourself legal documents.

We encourage you, the donor, to discuss proposed planned/legacy gifts with an independent financial planner, legal advisor and/or tax advisor of your choice and at your expense, to ensure that you receive a full and accurate explanation of all aspects of the proposed charitable gift.