The Estate Plan Backup Plan
Wishes are an effective way to start a long-term project. Watch any episode of Shark Tank or any documentary about a successful artist or innovator, and you will hear stories of how someone wished to follow the example of a particular extraordinary person or wished to invent something that did not yet exist but could make a particular process safer, simpler, or less expensive. Getting your affairs in order for your final illness and death is no fun, and it is natural to avoid the task. Therefore, estate planning lawyers often engage new clients in wish making sessions and ask them to daydream about how they want to spend their lives in retirement. For example, do they care more about staying close to their family and friends and eventually hosting Christmas dinner in their family home for their great-grandchildren, or would they prefer to receive their mail at a tiny house in Florida and spend as much time as possible traveling the world on tour buses and cruise ships? If these daydreams have helped you draft some of your estate planning documents, then you are in a better position than people who dread estate planning so much that they have not even started. Your estate plan should not assume that you will get your first choice in everything, though. For help creating an estate plan with a built-in plan B, contact a Washington, D.C. estate planning lawyer.
Beware of Utopian Estate Planning
The purpose of your most important estate planning documents is to prevent ambiguity and disputes about what should happen to your property when you die and what your wishes are about your finances, medical treatment, and long-term care in the event that you become seriously ill. If all of the people that you put in charge of your property and decisions are still alive and well when you grow old and die, then your estate plan will go off without a hitch. Stuff happens, though, and not everyone to whom you have assigned roles in your estate plan may be available to fulfill their designated functions. Just as theater directors cast understudies to play each role if the original actor is ill or on jury duty on the day of a performance, you should indicate successors in each of your estate planning documents.
For example, your will should list a personal representative, plus a successor personal representative who will take on the role if the first personal representative predeceases you. It is easier to do this than to scramble to formalize a new version of your will after the first personal representative dies. You should also list successors for the beneficiaries. If you have minor children, your will should indicate a guardian for them, as well as a successor guardian.
Contact Tobin O’Connor Ewing About Gifts as an Estate Planning Strategy
A Washington, D.C. estate planning attorney can help you draft your estate planning documents such that they include successors, thus reducing the need for later revisions. Contact Tobin, O’Connor, and Ewing in Washington, D.C. or call 202-362-5900.