Many people do not want to think about estate planning because they are young and healthy, or because they do not want to think about their own mortality. The fact of the matter is that planning your estate is a process that really can help you to achieve peace of mind. Whether you are young and just starting out life or older, whether you are married or unmarried, a personalized estate plan including documents to guide your loved ones in case you need assistance managing your finances or your healthcare, is crucial. Life is unpredictable and for very little hassle you can rest easy knowing that your wishes both during life and after your death are documented so your loved ones can protect and honor them, and that your loved ones have the proper access and rights to help you when it is most important.
A basic estate plan for your average person of modest assets usually includes the following:
Last Will and Testament: A will indicates who is to inherit your estate, in part or in whole, after you die. A will also indicates who you want to serve as the executor or fiduciary of your estate. It may also include a trust if you have minor children or other young people named as beneficiaries to your assets, as well as who you would name to act as guardian of any minor children you may leave behind. If you leave no will behind, your heirs at law will be forced to seek court permission to administer your assets after you pass.
Healthcare Proxy: A healthcare proxy indicates who you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if become temporarily or permanently incapable of making your own medical decisions. If you do not have this document in place, your loved ones may need to seek a court order to gain the legal right to make decisions on your behalf.
Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney names a trusted person to make all sorts of planning and financial decisions on your behalf. If you become unable to make certain decisions on your own or if an emergency comes up and you need another to complete a financial transaction for you, you will need a power of attorney in place. Your assets will be frozen and a court order will need to be obtained if you do not have a power of attorney in place.
Other Estate Planning: A properly planned estate can also save your family a great deal of money so that your children and grandchildren can enjoy your wealth after you pass. I am happy to discuss actions that may be appropriate for you on an individual basis.