Thursday, December 15, 2011

A New Year's Resolution

As the holiday season gets into full swing this December, health and fitness is likely the last thing on your mind.  With Christmas cookies and other assorted baked goods arriving at home, work or in the store, you are probably just as distracted as I am.  The holiday season is the time we forget about our master plan for healthy living and we enjoy ourselves and the friends and family around us.  As the holiday goes by we start to focus on the next year to come and what it will bring for changes in our lives, good or bad.  We make resolutions for these changes.  New Year’s resolutions are part of our annual vow to change certain parts of our life for the better. 

There is nothing healthier than taking an honest look at your life and making a list of things that you could change.  Spend more time with your family, less time worrying about the things you can’t change, exercise more, eat healthier, get involved in the local community.  All of these are admirable goals which may or may not be met, but are absolutely worth trying. 

Many New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside after a few months (or even a few weeks) and are left in the corner until next December when they reappear to haunt our minds once more.  This year, I propose that the best possible New Year’s resolution you could make for yourself and your family is to plan for your future.  Estate planning is that type of plan.  I make it a point to explain to clients that in order to ensure that you have fully protected your family if something were to happen to you, having an estate plan in place is a requirement. 

A basic estate plan should include a will, financial durable power of attorney and an advanced health care directive.  These basic estate documents will address where assets are distributed, who is handling financial affairs on your behalf, and who should be making medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.  Trusts allow people to put conditions on how and when assets are distributed, and are instruments used to reduce estate and gift taxes.

For families with children, parents without wills leave their children exposed without a named guardian to take over in the event of an unexpected death.  Without a clear distribution plan memorialized in a will, your estate is left to be distributed by the State pursuant to the intestate statute.  If your plans do not include leaving your closest heirs equal shares of your estate, then you may want to consider estate planning. 

Estate planning is most certainly not a topic filled with holiday cheer and good tidings, but it is something that should be considered when looking at the New Year to come.  Now is the time to take advantage of your annual assessment of yourself.  If not now, will it be next December that you think of it again?  There is nothing healthier for you and your family than piece of mind.

In the words of Oprah Winfrey, cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from Seacoast Law & Title.

Shannon M. Esty, Esq., is an Associate Attorney at Seacoast Law & Title. The law firm, located at 1399 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, specializes in estate planning, real estate, business and family law. Shannon welcomes comments or questions at or (207) 591-7880.

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