The holiday season is a time for celebration, reflection and spending time with family. As your loved ones gather for the holidays, take a moment to reflect on the changes in your life and your family. Are you anxiously awaiting the arrival of your first child or are your children now adults with families of their own? Are you planning for retirement or starting the new year with a new business venture? These important events should serve as a reminder that your estate plan should keep pace with your life. The holidays are an opportune time to ensure that your wishes are properly reflected and your family is prepared to act when needed, so this holiday season consider giving your family and friends the gift of peace of mind with these key estate planning documents.

Wills and Trusts

A will is a legal document used to communicate your wishes regarding the distribution of your property, the care of any minor children and who you want to carry out those wishes. Wills are a great tool to plan for your family’s future, but a well-crafted estate plan typically includes both a will and a trust working in conjunction. A trust provides a number of additional benefits to you and your loved ones. Revocable trusts allow for an additional level of control over your assets by detailing how you want your assets to be managed, distributed and used after you are gone. Trusts can also be used to minimize estate taxes and provide creditor protection for your beneficiaries. Since trusts usually avoid probate, unlike a will, a trust can also save your beneficiaries time and associated court fees.

Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney

A financial power of attorney allows you to authorize an individual to handle your personal finances on your behalf should you become incapacitated. A financial power of attorney can give broad responsibility to an agent or assign more specific duties such as paying bills, making bank deposits and filing for insurance benefits on your behalf. The appointed person is expected to make financial decisions with your wishes in mind and has full authority to act on your behalf until his/her power is revoked.

Equally important is a healthcare power of attorney, which allows you to authorize an individual to make healthcare decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions yourself. In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, a “living will” is an important healthcare directive which allows you to communicate your treatment wishes ahead of an illness or accident so that the healthcare power of attorney can relay those desires to doctors and family members.

Beneficiary Designations

For any financial accounts—401(k)s/IRAs, life insurance policies or pensions—a beneficiary designation is used to direct who will receive those funds upon your death. Beneficiary designations should be updated following key life events such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of children, or the death of a loved one. It is important to communicate where your financial documents are located and what is included in them so your beneficiary can access the accounts with ease when the time comes.

To learn more or begin the process of estate planning, contact Buckley Fine’s team at 847-381-0011 or email us at