There are three primary windows (and a prologue) during our lives when we create and make major updates to our estate plans. The prologue is when we get married. At this point, we now have a partner and typically our parents who feel strongly about our financial and medical well-being. Therefore, this is a great time to sign a financial power of attorney and medical directives. This way, it is crystal clear who is authorized to speak for us if we can’t speak for ourselves.
Next, the first major estate planning window occurs shortly before or after we have children. During this window, we are planning for the worst-case (but statistically unlikely) scenario where both parents pass away leaving minor children. The planning we do here starts with naming guardians for our children and then focuses on putting some guidelines and ground rules in place governing how, and when, our children can use their inheritance. We like to think of planning during this window as the safety net required for young families, like the term life insurance policies that we purchase. We hope we never use it, but we need it just in case.
The second window for planning takes place when we are in our 50s and 60s. Typically, our children are now adults and we begin thinking about who will take care of us if we become incapacitated. We are also writing a plan that has a higher likelihood of being used, so we are focusing on estate tax planning and efficient methods to pass our wealth to the next generation. To find out whether your estate will generate an Oregon estate tax, please use our free calculator.
The third and final planning window occurs in our 70s and 80s. During this window, we are not writing a plan for “if” we pass away earlier than expected, but rather a plan for “when” we pass away. During this window, we make smaller changes to the plan and are focused on the minor details. During this window, we may also update our plan every year or every couple of years.
Outside of these windows, it is also important to review our plans for needed revisions at various life stages. To help clients remember when to review their estate plan, we’ve created this timeline. If you’d like to create or update an estate plan, our firm is happy to help and we offer a complimentary consultation to get the process started. Please visit us at myattandbell.com.
While it is always easy to push off doing estate planning, I like remind clients that there is in fact a deadline.