Ask General Counsel estate planning lessons from Ed Asner

About a year ago, Emmy Award winning actor Ed Asner, who passed away last week, recorded a witty interview on the Kelly Clarkson Show.  

Asner, who often played the role of a grumpy old man was far from that in real life. In the movie "Up," Asner channeled his empathy in scenes so relatable they make people laugh and cry at the same time.  

When someone like Ed Asner dies, who many of us felt like we knew, we can reflect upon our mortality.  Many life events necessitate creating an estate plan, considering a will or a trust, or updating your existing estate planning to ensure your last will and testament, living trust, power of attorney, living will and/or health care proxy accomplish what you want, avoid probate court, and keep your loved ones out of conflict.  

Below are some life events to consider when considering whether you would benefit from a conversation around estate planning:

1. You get married: Congratulations! Marriage not only changes your relationship status, but it also changes your legal status. Regardless of whether it’s your first marriage or fifth, you must take the proper steps to ensure your estate plan properly reflects your current wishes and needs.  

After getting hitched, some of your most pressing concerns include naming your new spouse to beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, annuities, brokerage and retirement plan accounts, updating deeds to reflect the optimal ownership of real estate, granting them a durable power of attorney (if that’s your wish), adding them to your will and/or living trust, or creating a new estate plan together considering estate taxes, health care decisions with a living will or advanced health care directive, and even avoiding the probate process.  

Couples say that after completing their estate planning, they feel closer to each other and their loved ones, and happier knowing that they shared these important wishes with the person they love most.

#2. You get divorced:  Since divorce can be so overwhelming, many people do not update their estate plan until years later.  

Once divorce proceedings start, you’ll need to ensure your future ex is no longer eligible to receive any of your assets, including revoking your current estate plan, whether that is a will, power of attorney, and/or living will to ensure they are not authorized to make any decisions about your financial affairs or update life insurance policies and/or financial accounts with beneficiary designations.  

Once the divorce is finalized, you’ll need to adjust your estate planning to match your new asset profile, living situation, and incorporate any co-parenting and/or divorce agreements into your estate plan for the best interests of your children. You'll also want to consider creating a customized revocable living trust to protect yourself and children with your prior partner and incorporate your family members or other new loved ones in your life.

#3. You welcome a child: This new person in your life deserves your care, time, and effort to name temporary and permanent guardians should anything unfortunate happen to you.  Parents may consider estate planning tools, such as living trusts, their child’s special needs, or at least a simple will to be clear about your wishes should you be unavailable even temporarily (i.e., due to an accident) to protect your child.

A medical power of attorney is also recommended for your child when they are visiting family and friends, or with a childcare provider in case you are not available.  One hour of planning now can help you save money by avoiding legal fees and the need to hire a probate attorney and give you peace of mind that your child is protected.

#4. You become ill or suffer an injury: As with death, illness and injury are an unavoidable part of being human. If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness or are involved in a life-changing accident, you may want to review the people you’ve chosen to handle your healthcare decisions as well as how those decisions should be made. You may also consider updating your medical care professionals about your advance healthcare directive, and consider long term care plans.  The person you want as your healthcare proxy can change with time, so be sure your estate plan reflects your current wishes.

#5. You move to a new state: Because estate planning laws can vary widely from state to state, if you move to a different state, you’ll need to review and possibly amend your estate plan to comply with your new home’s legal requirements for valid wills and trusts. Often you will open or close bank accounts and in the process have an option to name a trust as the account holder rather than a traditional individual or joint checking/savings bank account.

#6. Your assets or liabilities change significantly: Whenever your estate’s value dramatically increases or decreases, you should revisit your estate plan to ensure it still offers the maximum protection and benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Whether you win the lottery or take out a new loan, your estate plan should be adjusted accordingly so you do not rely on an outdated last will and testament. You should also take advantage of the latest asset protection planning with revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts, and update the ownership of your bank accounts and brokerage accounts, to name a few!

Do you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios?  Consider contacting us to have a conversation about estate planning right away with our experienced estate planning attorneys at our law firm. Whether reviewing an existing trust, updating your will, or creating an estate plan from scratch, you’ll be relieved you took the next step! 

Contact Us

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you prepare and guide you through the process of protecting your wealth and possessions and also provide strategies to leverage your chosen legacy and your values during your lifetime. Estate planning attorneys at General Counsel, P.C. can guarantee that you’ll feel more confident about your future after you’ve made your estate plan or updated your existing plan.  We would welcome the opportunity to help you navigate the estate planning process. Contact us today at 571-396-8460, email, or if you’re ready to commit to protecting yourself and your loved ones, simply contact us to schedule an appointment here, to have a conversation about how we can help!

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