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  • Writer's pictureCorina Colan

Why Estate Planning Is the Best Use of Your Tax Refund 

When that extra bit of money from your tax refund lands in your bank account, (kinda feels like Christmas, doesn’t it?)  it's easy to start dreaming about all the ways you can use it. Financial experts may tell you that it's a chance to pay off debts, tuck away savings for an emergency, or add to your retirement savings. You, on the other hand, may want to splurge on something special. However, there's an often-overlooked option that not only provides immediate satisfaction but ensures long-term benefits for both you and your loved ones: estate planning.

Estate planning might sound like a complex and daunting chore reserved for the wealthy, but it's actually a straightforward and crucial process for everyone. In its most basic terms, estate planning involves making a plan for what happens to your belongings and finances after you're gone, or if you become incapacitated. Think of it as creating a roadmap for your loved ones to follow, ensuring they're taken care of and know exactly how to handle your estate according to your wishes. After all, someone will have to do something with your stuff after you’re gone, and if you’re the one who takes care of it while you can, you can save your loved ones a lot of pain. And, make sure you are cared for in the way you want, by the people you want, if you become incapacitated.

And by the way, proper estate planning covers much more than just money and personal belongings, but we’ll delve into that in just a bit.

Why You Need an Estate Plan

Not only do you need a plan for what happens with your finances and personal items after you’re gone or become incapacitated, but you also need an estate plan if any of the following are true:

You care about the people in your life who will handle things for you, if you cannot. First and foremost, estate planning isn’t something you just do for yourself, it’s truly an investment you make for the people you love. If it feels daunting to you, imagine how they will feel left with a big confusing mess when something happens to you. And, it’s one of those things that you must get handled before you need it because by the time you need it, it’s too late, and you’ve just left the people you love the most with a big mess.

That’s why we say that estate planning is about protecting your family. It's about protecting their time, energy and attention, and leaving them with a gift of love. It’s a way of saying "I love you" that goes beyond words, providing them with security and guidance during a difficult time. By making your wishes clear, you can keep them out of court, prevent potential conflicts and ensure your loved ones are supported exactly as you intend.

You want your wishes to be honored. With an estate plan, you have the power to dictate exactly how you want to be cared for if you are incapacitated, or who makes decisions for you if you cannot. If you would not want to linger in a hospital bed for years like Terry Schiavo did before her death, you must create a plan. Otherwise, the people you love could get stuck in a court process fighting over your care. 

You also get to say who inherits your assets, from your home and savings to sentimental items. Planning ensures there isn’t any confusion and guarantees that your possessions end up in the right hands. Planning also makes it clear who should handle things after you are gone, and it makes it as easy as possible for the people you choose. 

You want to save money and time (for yourself and your family). Dealing with the court if you become incapacitated or when you die is time-consuming, can be expensive and is totally public. Without a clear plan in place, you or your family may face costly legal battles and time-consuming administrative hurdles. Your careful planning now can save them from this stress and financial strain, making the process as smooth as possible. In addition, careful planning ensures that you save yourself money by avoiding unnecessary costs if you are unable to care for yourself. 

You have minor children. If you have minor children, consider who is home with them when you aren’t. Would that person know what to do if you didn’t make it home? Or would the authorities show up at your house and have to take your children into the care of protective custody/strangers while they figured it out? If the idea of this terrifies you like it does most parents, you need an estate plan. 

Most parents of minor kids are overwhelmed with the demands of everyday life and don’t stop to think that estate planning applies to them. A common misconception is that planning is only for older folks who know their mortality is staring them in the face, and young parents think that’s too far off to warrant any consideration. That’s a mistake. Death happens to everyone and incapacity can happen before it, no matter how old you are right now. Don’t leave your kids at risk.

So now you know you need an estate plan but aren’t sure what to do next. If you feel like the process seems daunting, don’t worry. Taking that first step is easier than you might think. 

Put Your Tax Refund To Work 

You might consider using your tax refund to do your estate plan on your own or opt for a cheap online service. While these options can seem cost-effective at first glance, they don’t offer the comprehensive coverage and personalized advice that your unique situation requires. 

Instead, investing your refund in working with a heart centered, holistic attorney with a process in place for ensuring that your plan works throughout your lifetime is a much wiser choice. We will get to know you, your family dynamics, and your assets, and then help you choose the right plan for you both now, and into the future. Creating a will or a trust isn’t a one and done thing you do, and then put it on a shelf or in a drawer and never look at it again. When you do that, your plan is almost guaranteed to fail when the people you love need it. In that case, it’s almost better to do nothing because then at least you have it on your to-do list. False security is one of the greatest risks of estate planning.

We will help you navigate the law, and also help you tailor your estate plan to fit your specific needs, as well as provide peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is thorough and legally sound. Remember, when it comes to safeguarding your family's future and ensuring your wishes are accurately reflected, the value of expert guidance is well worth the investment.

At the very least, your attorney should help you create the relevant documents, including:

Creating a Will: A will is a document in which you detail the distribution of your assets and designate guardians for any minor children. It serves as your voice, ensuring your assets are allocated as you desire. 

Setting Up a Trust: For greater control over the distribution of your assets, a trust is invaluable. It not only allows for precise management of how and when your assets are distributed but can also offer tax advantages and circumvent the lengthy and public probate process. In addition, and maybe more importantly, a trust will help your loved ones avoid a lengthy, expensive,  and totally public court process, which can cost your family significant amounts of time, energy and attention. 

Selecting Guardians and Executors: A key component of estate planning is choosing individuals who will execute your wishes and look after your children if you are unable to do so. These crucial choices help safeguard your family's future. And if you want to go beyond merely choosing people to raise your kids, you need a thorough Kids Protection Plan, which takes into account anything that could happen (i.e., you’re in a car accident and they’re with a babysitter at home). A Kids Protection Plan also ensures your kids are raised by the people you want in the way you want, that someone you’d never want to raise your kids is able to, and that the right people are able to get emergency care for them if you’re traveling without them.

Managing Taxes and Expenses: Effective estate planning can significantly lessen the tax load on your beneficiaries, allowing a larger portion of your assets to benefit them directly instead of going towards tax settlements.

These are all undoubtedly important, and what most estate planning attorneys will do for you. However, a Personal Family Lawyer will go a few steps further, ensuring that investing your tax refund in an estate plan is the very best investment you’ll make all year. In fact, every Personal Family Lawyer promises to deliver a plan to clients that works throughout your lifetime. They do this by:

  • Empowering you to choose the right plan that fits your unique family situation, values, and budget (most lawyers will tell you what you need);

  • Ensuring your assets are inventoried and don’t end up lost (most lawyers won’t tell you that this happens - a lot - to the tune of billions of dollars every year);

  • Creating a Kids Protection Plan® , a comprehensive plan outside of your will for what happens to your kids if something happened to you (most lawyers don’t even think to do this);

  • Being a trusted advisor for your family, so they have someone to turn to for help when something happens to you (most lawyers don’t ever make contact with your family after you’ve completed your estate plan); 

  • Capturing your memories, stories, values and family traditions so they are passed down to the next generations (most lawyers don’t think to do this either); and

  • A system for updating your plan at least every three years to make sure your plan stays up to date so as your life changes and the law changes, your plan works when you need it to (most lawyers treat their clients as a “one and done” transaction, never checking in again and letting your plan go stale).

What If I Didn’t Get a Refund This Year?

Now you may be thinking, bummer, I didn’t get a refund this year. Know these two things: 1) Estate planning is always a wise investment whether you get a refund or not; and 2) A Personal Family Lawyer, using a unique process called Life & Legacy Planning, can help you organize your finances so you are more likely to get a refund next year, or at least not have a big unexpected tax bill, if that’s what happened this year.. A Personal Family Lawyer will also help you get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, so that you make the very best decisions about the allocation of your resources for yourself and the people you love. 

Estate Planning: The Ultimate Expression of Love

Among all the ways to use your tax refund, estate planning with a Personal Family Lawyer ensures that your love and care for your family endure long after you're gone. It's an act of foresight that not only secures your family's financial future but also leaves a legacy.

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we will work with you to create a complete plan that is worth more to your loved ones than your tax refund will cover. To learn more about our Life & Legacy Planning process, and how we approach estate planning from a place of heart, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office today.

This article is a service of Corina Colan, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.

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