An estate plan might not come in a perfectly wrapped box with a fancy bow or have shiny tinsel and colorful lights hanging around it. Discussions of estate planning during the holidays might not even be met with cheers and smiles. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind what the holiday season is truly about – which is peace. There’s no better joy or peace in knowing that you have created a reliable and comprehensive estate plan that will save your family and loved ones the stress and challenges faced in settling an estate or in management of your care if something happened to you. You can give them the gift of peace of mind.

A well-crafted estate plan can serve as a tool and guide to what you want to happen with your care, finances and belongings. If something were to happen to you or if you passed without first having created an estate plan, your loved ones would be left with trying to figure out how you would want your affairs handled, which can cause a great deal of stress. 

By having an estate plan in place your inner circle can feel rest assured that they have a guide to follow that honors your wishes.

By creating an estate plan, you get to remain in control and dictate your care during incapacity, and the distribution of your assets upon your death. If you fail to plan, then a court will decide for you through any necessary guardianship or conservatorship proceedings, and the laws of intestacy. 

A guardianship proceeding can be a time-consuming and costly process. Also, if you pass away intestate (with no estate plan), then intestate probate proceedings may result in your estate not being handled in the manner you might have wanted, or also result in those inheriting from your estate that you had not intended to. 

One of the main reasons people tend to procrastinate this topic is because of the misconception that it may be too complicated. However, with the assistance of a qualified estate planning attorney, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember, even working with an attorney to create a basic will is better than having nothing at all. 

If you already have an estate plan, that’s great. But, when was the last time that you’ve reviewed it? Have there been any life-changing events that happened that could result in the need for you to update your current estate plan? 

Do you still wish to have the same named agents or personal representatives (executors) in your documents – are those individuals still available or living? Depending on your answers to these questions, it may be time to update your current estate plan.

Though planning for your passing or incapacity may not sound as sweet as a holiday treat, it can be just as refreshing and will bring you a sense of relief. Plan for tomorrow, today and speak with a qualified estate planning attorney. 

Jada L. Gaines is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton.