People don’t like to get involved in estate planning. They think it’s morbid, unnecessary, and time-consuming. However, it can become a much different story should the unthinkable happen and a family is left in mourning with a mountain of red tape and court appearances to wade through.
Investing time in estate planning is actually an act of service for your family and should be undertaken no matter what the state of your affairs may be. The lack of a sizable inheritance or nest egg to bequeath to future generations need not deter you from accomplishing this important objective. Money is just a small portion of estate planning.
6 Important Reasons to Have an Estate Plan
- Prevent family feuds – Even the most tight-knit family might get into ugly fights when it comes to deciding who gets what mementos of you. This can happen even when the objects in discussion have no monetary value—rather, children may attach significant sentimental value to the items. You can avoid this headache by dividing up your items equally, taking into account each child’s preferences.
- Specify continuation of care – If you provide care for aging parents, a disabled adult child, or young children, you’ll want to ensure their care should you be unable to provide it for them. An estate plan allows you to dictate how care should be continued in your absence.
- Dictate business succession – If you own a company it’s important you provide instructions for how it will continue to run when you are gone. Do you have a son you’ve been grooming to inherit the station? Is there a business partner to consider? You can explain in your estate plan how the business should work, thus ensuring its continued success.
- Make health care decisions – You never know when accidents might happen, leaving you alive but incapacitated. Times of crisis make effective decision-making difficult for your family, especially when they don’t know what you want. In an estate plan you can specify what type of health decisions you desire and select someone to make further decisions on your behalf as long as you are unable to do so.
- Take inventory – No matter how much or how little worldly wealth you may have, an estate plan allows you to take stock of what you own, thus enabling you to make smarter retirement plans. If you know what your estate entails, you’ll know what funds you have to draw on in the future and how to maximize your assets most effectively.
- Make funeral arrangements – These arrangements are a necessary evil for family members to deal with, but you can make it easier on them by making your wishes known ahead of time. In lieu of flowers, do you want people to donate money to a particular charity? Do you have a strong preference of where you’d like to be buried? You can even allocate some portion of your assets to help cover the costs so your family can spend less time making money decisions and more time celebrating the life you lived.
No one plans on leaving estate planning until the last minute—after all, they don’t know when that last minute will be. Planning ahead can be a great service to your family in their time of grief. And there are experienced attorneys available who can help you with all the necessary arrangements and decision-making so you don’t feel like you have to figure it all out on your own.
Marriage is a tough challenge that takes a lot of commitment from both sides of the altar. And sometimes, for one reason or another, it just doesn’t work out. Maybe the two of you have grown apart, maybe you’re just tired of trying so hard with no reciprocation, but at some point, you know you’ve had enough. How do you recognize when that moment arrives? Is there a “right” time to call it quits? The answer varies for every couple, but the following 5 questions will help you evaluate the state of your own marriage.
1. Has either spouse committed an act of infidelity?
The occurrence of infidelity in a marriage relationship signals serious problems. It is a trial many couples have a very hard time recovering from. Sometimes it can be overcome if the cheated-on spouse is understanding and the two commit to spending more energy on their marriage. Counseling can help spouses communicate more openly and work through their differences. However, a time may come when it is apparent that the indiscretion cannot be overlooked. Researchers with the National Fatherhood Initiative reported that 55 percent of respondents to a survey conducted on reasons for divorce identified cheating as the ultimate reason they decided to split.
2. Does each partner make an effort to make the marriage work?
This is a tricky question to answer because your evaluation of what 100% effort is may differ from that of your spouse’s. Couples who want to stay together don’t constantly compare who contributes more to the marriage, who makes more money, who does more chores, etc. They put their full effort into making the marriage work without regard for small omissions on their spouse’s part. A time may come, though, when it is apparent that one or both no longer care if the marriage works out. Arguing will break out frequently and each will eventually become exhausted by the thought of continuing to be together. Approximately 44 percent of the people in the initiative’s survey said “they felt their marriage was unequal. . . . When one person feels an unfair amount of responsibility is placed on them in the marriage, the relationship could be in danger.”
3. Has the relationship become abusive?
The survey further reported that about 29 percent of divorces result because of domestic violence. It’s a complicated situation that makes divorce trickier than when the separation is necessitated by other reasons. Clinton Power, a relationship counselor and founder of Clinton Power & Associates told MSN, “The most important thing is to make sure that you’re safe before instigating any separation or divorce. Secondly, let people close to you in your life know of any possible dangers that may come from preparing or announcing a divorce.” It’s very important to hire an experienced divorce lawyer to help you navigate the complicated procedure of this type of divorce.
4. Are there children involved in your relationship?
If there are, it is best for you to pursue the relationship as long as possible. Children fare best in double-parent households and the stress and upset created by divorce can have a significantly negative impact on them. However, at some point remaining in the relationship may become more damaging to them than ending the relationship would be. If constant fighting makes them worried or you and your spouse begin vying against each other for their affections, these are signs your marriage is beginning to do more harm than good. Divorce lawyers can help you come to an amicable arrangement of custody and child support payments.
5. Do you or your spouse suffer from a mental illness?
Mental illness puts incredible stress on a marriage because it means one spouse may not be able to put any effort towards making the relationship work. According to a multinational study of mental disorders, “a sample of 18 mental disorders all increased the likelihood of divorce . . . Addictions and major depression were the highest factors, with PTSD also significant.” Of course, every effort should be made to continue the marriage whenever possible, but it may eventually become impossible for one spouse to carry on the relationship alone.
The day you decide divorce is necessary is going to be difficult and you may feel a mix of guilt and regret. But you also need to recognize the limits of your strength and that eventually, enough is enough. Be sure you hire a professional, experienced lawyer who can help you successfully find your way through this challenging time.