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3 reasons to include estate planning in New Year's resolutions

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Posted at 2:45 PM, Dec 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-05 22:41:31-05

What better way to spend the holiday season than thinking about your own mortality.

All of the excitement of the new year might not seem like the perfect time to plan for death, but it’s better to update estate planning and/or create a will before it gets to be too late.

Not wealthy, or still relatively young? That does not mean you do not need a will or estate planning, said Emily Pan, an associate attorney for Vorys. Everyone with property and/or children should have an estate plan, she said.

Here are three reasons why:

Make it easier on loved ones

Creating an estate plan, which includes but is not limited to getting a will, provides clear details of what people want to happen with their stuff.

Otherwise, the government gets to decide.

“If you don’t have a will, than your property passes according to state law,” Pan said.

The will is especially important for parents who want a say in who will care for their children or have specific wishes for how assets are given to the children.

For example, an estate inherited by a special needs child might need to be done a certain way to ensure the child continues to get public benefits.

Save money

Pan said clients often ask for legal ways to eliminate probate, which involves clerical work to make sure the assets go to the right people.

A proper estate plan can eliminate the need for the probate administration process, Pan said.

“It’s pretty much an unnecessary expense,” she said.

Maintain privacy

When estate records are filed in court, the documents are available to the public.

“Now everyone knows what you owned and who you gave it to after your death,” Pan said.

Creating an estate can eliminate the need for such records to become public.

When to plan

Updated planning should take place following a major life event such as the birth of a child or a divorce, Pan said.

Given that different states have different laws, those moving to a new state also should dust off the estate plan to make sure the plan is update, she said.

Otherwise, Pan said she recommends having an estate plan looked at every 3 to 5 years to make sure laws have not changed that could impact the plans.