Resolutions With Purpose: Prioritizing Your Estate and Family’s Future in 2024
As we begin a new year, it is important to reassess our goals and priorities to ensure our physical, mental, and financial health so that we may have a prosperous and successful year ahead. The best way to achieve our goals is to write them down and strategize a plan for working towards these goals throughout the year. Additionally, we all have that to-do list a mile long that we have been meaning to get to but for whatever reason haven’t and what better time than the start of a new year to check off some important tasks to start off 2024 on the right foot. As an estate planner and elder law attorney, I recommend that you consider the following when making your New Year’s resolutions:
- Get your estate plan done (if you haven’t already).
Visiting your attorney to get your estate plan done is one New Year’s resolution that you should definitely keep. None of us know whether or when we may find ourselves seriously injured or sick. But if it does happen, you may not be able to speak for yourself which is why it is so important to prepare your estate planning documents well in advance of emergencies. It will give you peace of mind to have it done and will ensure that your wishes are honored.
- Don’t forget about your four-legged family members.
Don’t forget to include your pets when having your estate plan prepared. The main goal of estate planning is to provide for your loved ones and that should include your beloved pets. Approximately 500,000 pets are euthanized in the U.S. shelters each year because there was no solid plan for their care upon the pet parent’s incapacity or death. You should also have an emergency plan in place that includes temporary care givers for any emergencies or temporary absences and should discuss this plan with the temporary caregivers in advance so that they know what to do.
- If you already have an estate plan in place, consider whether you and your family have experienced any major changes that would impact the effectiveness of your estate plan.
Has there been a birth, death, divorce, or marriage? Has there been a major health event? When there has been a significant change in one’s life it is recommended that you review your estate planning documents to ensure that they still meet your objectives. You may have some questions for your attorney regarding how these changes will affect your documents. While your documents may not need to be amended or updated, it will give you peace of mind knowing that your documents are still meeting your needs and that your final wishes will be carried out as you desire. It is important to advise your estate planning attorney whenever a major life event has occurred so that they can make sure that your estate plan is not negatively impacted.
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are updated and in line with your estate plan.
A very common misconception is that if an individual has their will in place, their estate will not go through probate. This is not true. For assets to avoid having to go through probate they must be directed to go somewhere immediately upon the owner’s passing by (1) beneficiary designation or (2) to a joint owner if there is one. Having your estate planning documents drafted and executed is the first step to having a successful estate plan. The second, and just as important, step is to make sure that you have beneficiary designations on all your accounts including bank accounts, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, life insurance policies, etc. You can even list a beneficiary on your vehicle through the DMV.
- Make sure that you and your agents know where your important documents are kept.
Pull your documents out a least once a year to make sure that they are in good condition and to remind yourself where they are located. Be sure to let the individuals named in your documents know where your documents can be found and let them know if you decide to move them to a new location.
- Be aware of sophisticated phishing scams.
Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated and have adapted their scams to appear much more legitimate. Phishing attacks, where a cybercriminal sends a deceptive message that’s designed to fool a user into providing sensitive information such as credit card numbers or to launch malware on the user’s system, are on the rise. There has been a huge increase in phishing attacks from previous years. Make sure you are up to date on the most recent and prevalent phishing tactics and learn how to recognize a phishing attempt to protect yourself.
- Review your financial goals for the upcoming year.
The best way to achieve a goal is to write it down and keep sight of it throughout the year. Take some time to consider what goals you have for your finances for the year and put them in writing so that you can work towards them all year long and end up in a better position financially than you started.
Resolutions are easy to make but much harder to keep. One-third will have forsaken their New Year’s resolutions by February. Use the above list to jump start and inspire your New Year’s resolutions and make it a productive start to a new year.
#PRO TIP: January is often a slow time for attorneys as individuals are recovering from the holidays and getting back into their normal routine meaning that it is a great time for you to call to schedule a telephone or in-person consultation.
Rachel H. Snead
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
Rachel Snead is an associate attorney with Hook Law practicing primarily in the areas of estate planning, estate and trust administration, guardianship and conservatorships, dispute resolution, and fiduciary litigation. To date, she has litigated and settled over 50 matters. She enjoys the diversity of work that elder law provides, and the challenges presented by litigation just as much as she enjoys helping people with creating their unique estate plan and navigating the complex administration of estates and trusts.
A graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law and Virginia Commonwealth University, Rachel is admitted to the Virginia State Bar. She is also a member of the Virginia Bar Association (VBA), the Hampton Roads Estate Planning Council, the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (VAELA), and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA).
In 2022 she became a licensed health and life insurance agent and attended the prestigious National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia School of Law where she received intensive hands-on advocacy training.
She has taught multiple continuing legal education courses including, “Getting Started in Elder Law,” “Virginia Probate from Start to Finish,” and “Guardianships and Assisted Decision-Making in Virginia,” and has facilitated sessions for VAELA including “Medicaid & SSI When a Client Owns a Business.” She has also been published on various platforms including T & E Magazine, WealthManagement.com and Age in Action, a quarterly newsletter published by the Virginia Center on Aging and Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
- Estate Planning
- Estate & Trust Administration
- Guardianships & Conservatorships
- Litigation & Dispute Resolution