No matter what your net worth is, everyone needs to consider estate planning. Estate planning accomplishes three important goals.
- You stay in control of your affairs in the event you are disabled.
- You ensure that your family and financial goals are accomplished after your death.
- You reduce or eliminate taxes that your family may have to pay after your death.
A typical estate plan has several elements. Included are a Testamentary or Living Trust, a Last Will and Testament, a Power of Attorney for property and legal issues, and a Health Care Power of Attorney, sometimes called an Advance Directive.
Planning your estate is also an occasion for you to take inventory of all of your assets. These include money in the bank, stocks and bonds, retirement assets, life insurance, real estate and the value of any businesses. Having an accurate knowledge of your assets allows you to determine who will inherit which assets. Just as important is determining who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes. Finally, you need to choose who will make medical decisions for you if the time ever comes that you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Estate planning is critically important for parents of young children. With an estate plan you choose who will step in for you as guardians for your children.
Those who die without an estate plan are stuck with the will that was written for them by state law. This is known as dying “intestate”. In such a case you have no say about who gets your property.
One common misconception is that Trusts are just for the wealthy. Not True! Trusts are important legal vehicles that enable middle class families to avoid the expense and inconvenience of probate court proceedings. Trusts can also be very valuable in reducing or eliminating Death Taxes.
Making an estate plan is also a good opportunity to discuss your intentions with your heirs. You can dispel any confusion and you may prevent disputes within the family by expressly stating your goals. We all know of instances in which someone’s death created acrimonious family fights which often result in hurt feelings and sometimes years of estrangement within the family. That’s one of the last things you would want to “will” to your children.
An estate plan also provides you with a way to give back to a church, school, university or charity some recognition of the blessings or advantages you have enjoyed in life.
If any of these things are important to you then you need an estate plan. We have thirty years of experience in estate planning and elder law.
Contact us today to find out more about what we can do for you.