What is an Estate Plan?
An Estate Plan is a written plan, during your life and after your death, to keep you in control and to protect yourself and those you love. Your "estate" is comprised of the assets you own ... your home, bank accounts, life insurance, investments, personal belongings, etc. You need certain people to handle certain matters when you cannot do so, and you probably want certain people to have certain assets you own.
To make sure that happens, you need to provide written instructions during your life stating "who" is to handle your financial and healthcare decisions, "how" they are to make those decisions and "what" limits you want on their authority. After your death, you need to provide written instructions stating "who" you want to receive your assets and belongings, "what" you want them to receive and "when" they are to receive it. That is the essence of an Estate Plan.
The instructions in a Will have no effect until you pass. You can change your Will as often as you want until your death. Many people forget that there often is a time period before our death when we need the help of other people to handle our affairs and care for us. We will need this help if we become disabled, even for a short time, due to illness or injury. Without the written instructions of an Estate Plan in place, your family and loved ones will have to ask a court for permission to use your assets to take care of you and to oversee your care or will have to ask for permission to make final distributions of your assets. Those processes will be out of your control; taking precious time, unnecessarily costing money and making an already difficult situation even more difficult.
The amount of your wealth really does not matter. It might surprise you, but having a plan in place often means more to families with modest means because (1) they can least afford to pay unnecessary court costs and legal fees and (2) state laws, which take over in the absence of planning, often distribute assets in an undesirable way. Many incorrectly assume that when they die, their spouse will receive everything or certain loved ones will receive certain things. I've witnessed too often this mistake after it's too late.
- Every adult, regardless of age or amount of wealth, needs both a lifetime and after-death Estate Plan.
- An Estate Plan should be reviewed at most every 3 years.
- Planning for disability will keep you in control and let your trusted loved ones care for you without court interference.
- Every adult needs current powers of attorney for financial and healthcare decisions and a current advance healthcare directive.
- You need to leave written instructions to make sure you are the one who selects who will receive, what they will receive and when they will receive.
- We all need the counseling and assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Please don't try to do this yourself. You need the counseling and assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney who has the expertise to guide you in considering issues and making difficult decisions. That attorney will also know how to carefully craft the appropriate estate planning documents, so that "what you think and intend" will happen when you become disabled or die "actually does" happen.
- Contact us now to set up an estate planning consultation appointment. We make tough topics manageable to discuss.
- And don't worry about how your life will unfold; the best practice is to have your Estate Plan prepared now based on your current situation.