Estate planning is important for people of all ages, but as we age, the need for planning becomes even more critical. Many people avoid estate planning because they do not want to think about the end of life, failing health or disability. Others believe that an estate plan is only for rich people. However, an estate plan is helpful for all adults and their families regardless of overall wealth.
The estate is all the property owned both individually and jointly, including bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, etc., and what is owed. Without an estate plan, it is very difficult to carry out a person’s wishes and can bring on a long, drawn-out probate that can be very expensive for the family. If an estate plan is in place, it can provide peace of mind for you and your family, as well as protection for your wishes.
Below are some basic guidelines for what should be included in an estate plan.
- Will. A will provides for an executor of the estate, who will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. The distribution of assets can be outlined in the will. This can be as broad or detailed as a person wishes. In a will, beneficiaries and guardians for minor children should be assigned. It may not seem necessary to discuss minor children when discussing seniors and estate planning, but with the rise of grandparents raising grandchildren, this may indeed be an important part of the will. You can spell out, in the will, how you want your funeral and burial to be carried out as well.
- Living Will. A living will outlines your wishes for end of life medical care. It can include, in as much detail as you wish, what medical treatments you would or would not like to have in specific situations. A living will takes the stress of making those decisions off of family members and helps to keep peace in families during times that can be difficult and emotional.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. A healthcare power of attorney is also a key part of an estate plan. This legal document provides for someone to legally make healthcare decisions for you. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect for you if you become unable to make decisions.
- Financial Power of Attorney. A financial power of attorney names an agent who has the power to act in the place of you for matters relating to finances. The durable financial power of attorney stays in effect if you become unable to handle your affairs. By having a financial power of attorney in place, the stress and expense of a guardianship can be avoided, and you have the final say in who will make decisions relating to finances.
- Trust. Setting up a trust can be beneficial for the distribution of specific assets or pieces of property. The benefit of a trust is that it does not go through probate, as compared to a will. Property is still distributed at the death of the trustmaker, but it is done without the need of a court. This also allows for privacy of the trustmaker, where with a will and a probate, all of the deceased person’s assets and the terms of their will is made public.
Having an estate plan is necessary if you or your loved one wishes to have a say in what happens at the end of life and with assets after death. Consulting and planning with an estate planning and elder law attorney will help to ensure that all options are explored and the best possible solution is utilized. The estate planning and elder law attorney can walk you through all of the necessary parts of the estate plan, provide an explanation, and prepare the paperwork. We will help take the guesswork out of estate planning.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.