Press Release: October 19th-25th marks National Estate Planning Awareness Week in the United States.  This observance seeks to educate Americans on the importance of having proper and updated estate planning documents should death or incapacity suddenly occur.  Cary estate planning lawyer, Jackie Bedard reveals why planning is so critical and how to ensure your plan won’t fail when your family needs it the most.

CARY, NC- October 19th-25th marks National Estate Planning Awareness Week in the United States.   The observance seeks to educate Americans on the importance of having proper and updated estate planning documents should death or incapacity suddenly occur. Estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management.  According to the National Association of Estate Planners and Counselors, it is estimated that over 120,000,000 Americans do not have up-to-date estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death.  Furthermore, according to a 2004 survey by

  • 69% of adult Americans do not have a Living Will or Advance Medical Directive
  • 58% of adult Americans do not even have a basic Last Will and Testament
  • Only 21% of adult Americans have established a trust for estate planning purposes

Yet the most shocking statistic, according to Cary estate planning lawyer Jackie Bedard, is how many Americans believe estate planning is something you do once and never look at again until after a person’s death or incapacity.  According to Bedard, that is the reason up to 95% of estate plans fail when families need them the most.  “Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not something you do once and then stick in a drawer never to look at again,” says Bedard.  Instead, your plan has to be updated as your life and the law changes through the years.” she adds.

So what life changes warrant an update to an estate plan?  Bedard recommends the following:

  • Marriage, remarriage or divorce – “We’ve all seen the consequences of not updating a plan in high profile estate battles such as Gary Coleman’s or Anna Nicole Smith’s,” says Bedard.  She warns failure to update your estate plan to reflect such changes in marital status could cause an ex-spouse, unintended third party or children from a previous marriage to unexpectedly end up with your inheritance.
  • Birth or adoption of a child (or grandchild) – Your estate plan should be updated following the birth or adoption of a child to ensure they are not disinherited. Bedard states that the birth or adoption of a child is also a great time to legally name guardians to care for your child should the unexpected happen to you.
  • A child (or grandchild) becomes handicapped or diagnosed with special needs – According to Bedard, an estate plan must also be updated upon the discovery that a child is disabled because leaving money outright to a child with special needs can jeopardize their ability to qualify for Medicaid (which is often the only type of insurance available) or other benefits in the future.  It’s recommended that parents consider a Special Needs Trust for a child who may need additional short or long-term support.
  • You enter a same-sex relationship with property or children-in-common – Bedard always advises those in same-sex or alternative relationships to review and update their plan often to ensure partners and children stay protected physically and financially should they be faced with death or incapacity.
  • Purchase or sale of real property – Your estate plan should always reflect the recent sale or purchase of property to ensure it is properly distributed to the people you want, in the way you want, should something happen to you.

“As a rule of thumb, I advise everyone to review their plan with a good estate planning attorney every two or three years to make sure their plan continues to reflect their wishes,” says Bedard.  “I ask clients questions like, ‘Are you still happy with the guardians you named for your kids?  Have you experience any ‘life events’ that may have changed how you’d like your estate distributed, or protected?’  Such questions when combined with a review of changes in estate law and tax avoidance strategies may save families literally tens of thousands of dollars and prevent years of headaches.  She continues, “That’s why I feel it is so important to get the word out about National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  I encourage readers to use awareness of this important issue, as motivation to protect themselves, their families and loved ones.”

Attorney, Jackie Bedard is the founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning in Cary, NC.  She is also an active member of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys.  For more information on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones, call (919) 443-3035.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
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