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The 'Lazy Girls' Guide to Estate Planning

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

There are “lazy girl" trends all over the internet. “Lazy girl dinners" are easy recipes requiring minimal effort, such as avocado toast or wine and Cheeze-its. There are “lazy girl jobs," which are good-paying jobs that reject the hustle and grind lifestyle or in which you can do the bare minimum and “quiet-quit."

But is there a lazy way to plan for the future? Yes, with basic estate planning documents.

What Does Estate Planning Mean?

Estate planning just means planning for the future, including planning for incapacity or death. It may surprise you to learn that, according to the Social Security Administration, more than 25% of 20-year-olds will experience some disability before they reach retirement age. Estate planning prepares for these events to cut down on the chaos if you die or become disabled. You are in charge of your future and decide:

  • Who will pay your bills or manage your money if you cannot
  • Who will make your medical decisions if you cannot speak
  • What life-sustaining medical treatments do you want if you are dying
  • Who should receive your money and property when you die
  • Who should raise your young children if you die before they are adults
  • Who should take care of your pets if you die before they do

By putting these plans in place, you are in control if something happens to you.

Planning for Incapacity

Two legal documents help you during your life if you face incapacity: a power of attorney and a health care directive.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows you to name someone as your agent to handle your money, access your accounts, and pay your bills. You decide what powers to grant your agent and when the power of attorney becomes effective. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests.

Health Care Directive

A health care directive combines a health care power of attorney with a living will. It allows you to name someone as your health care surrogate or proxy to get your medical information and make health care decisions if you are unable. You may also specify your wishes for end-of-life care if you have a terminal illness, including providing or withholding life-sustaining measures.

Planning for Death

When you die, your assets get lumped together and go into probate. A probate court oversees the payment of debts and distribution of assets to your beneficiaries. The more assets you have in probate, the more time and money your estate spends in probate court. You can take steps to reduce your probate estate and speed up the probate process.

Check Beneficiary Designations

You may have bank accounts and certificates of deposit, investment accounts such as stocks and mutual funds, and IRAs or retirement accounts. All of these can transfer outside your will if you name account beneficiaries. Upon death, these assets transfer directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate. If you don't have beneficiary designations, these assets go into your probate estate. Similarly, if you have a life insurance policy and annuity, if you don't name a beneficiary, the proceeds become part of your estate.

Make a Will

If you don't have a last will and testament, you die 'intestate,' and no one knows your wishes. A probate court follows state laws to distribute your estate, and your money and property go to your family, such as your spouse, kids, or parents. And without a will, if you have minor children or pets, you do not have a say in who cares for them.

A will is a simple legal document of your wishes for:

  • Who you want to manage your estate (your personal representative or executor)
  • Who receives your property
  • Who cares for your young children or pets
  • Who handles your social media accounts and digital life

Estate planning does not require a lot of effort. And although it is tempting to avoid it altogether, you will leave a mess behind. You can even do your estate planning online from the comfort of your bed with DIY estate planning forms and resources. However, it is best to consult an estate planning attorney if you want advanced estate planning, such as a revocable living trust for children with special needs or to reduce estate taxes. Give yourself peace of mind and make things easier for your loved ones.

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