Trends in Estate Planning

As the adage goes, the only constant in life is change. As people's life circumstances transform, their estate plans should adapt with them. Three trends have emerged in estate planning to respond to people's growing needs in key areas: caring for aging parents, providing for pets, and transferring ownership of digital assets.

Providing for Parents

Baby boomers are beginning to be known as the "sandwich generation," as they are increasingly called on to care for their own children and their aging parents at the same time. Baby boomers who are responsible for the care of their parents need to make sure that their parents will still be provided for should they pass on first.

Many people in this situation choose to include provisions in their estate plans that establish funds for long-term care insurance or set aside money to pay for parents' care.

Providing for Pets

People in the U.S. love their pets, and many view their pets as their children. As such, they want to make sure that someone will care for their pets after they die. The law views pets as personal property, so people cannot leave money to pets in their wills. However, people can include provisions in their wills directing someone else to care for their pets and setting aside funds in trusts for the continuing care of their pets.

Providing for Digital Assets

As more aspects of people's lives are interlaced with computers, they collect more digital assets and therefore must make plans for what will become of those assets after they pass away. People should make a list of all of their digital assets, including things such as online photos, online businesses like eBay and Etsy, social media accounts, online bank accounts, songs or other intellectual property, and passwords so survivors can access online accounts.

People can include instructions in their wills for how they want these online assets distributed, as well as whether they want social media accounts to be deactivated after they die.

Consult an Attorney

Creating a comprehensive estate plan without assistance can seem like an overwhelming task. People may not feel like they know all of the elements they need to include. If you have questions about whether your estate plan is sufficient for all of your needs, talk to a seasoned estate planning attorney who can discuss strategies to meet your needs.