Although many times hard to discuss, estate planning is a vital step in ensuring that your assets are correctly distributed and cared for after injury, illness, or death. Estate planning is necessary to ensure that your voice is heard. Each aspect of an estate plan allows you to state your wishes when you can no longer speak for yourself. At a minimum, an estate plan should include, an inventory of assets, a will, a healthcare directive, and a durable power of attorney, all of which are described further below.
The first step in forming an estate plan is to devise a list of assets and allocate those assets to the beneficiaries of your choosing. These assets and the beneficiaries will be outlined in your Last Will & Testament. For example, if you own a home, a car, a bank account or an heirloom jewelry piece, it’s important for you to decide who exactly will inherit each of those assets. Will your children split in the sale proceeds of your home? Will they inherit the property as joint tenants? Will your great-niece, Jill, inherit your grandmother’s sapphire ring? Etc. Here are some basic questions you should ask yourself when thinking about an estate plan:
– Who will inherit my property?
– Who will be the guardian of my children or family members with special needs?
– What will happen to my family business?
– Who will make my healthcare and financial decisions if I become disabled?
You should also designate an executor and an alternate executor (in case your first choice passes away before you do, becomes unable or is otherwise unwilling) to oversee the fulfillment of your Will.
The next step in creating a sound estate plan is to execute a healthcare directive. A healthcare directive allows you the right to refuse or request certain medical care in the event that you lose the mental capacity to make those decisions. When drafting a healthcare directive, you will choose someone as your proxy to make decisions about your medical care in your place.
Similar to a healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney grants your agent the power to make various decisions for you should you become mentally incapable. You can decide exactly what decisions you would like your agent to make for you, but many times a durable power of attorney will allow your agent to do one or more of the following on your behalf: buy and sell your property; manage your banking; prepare your tax documents.* The person named as your agent should understand their role and accept the responsibility.
Though seemingly complex and intimidating, we are here to walk you through every step of the process. We are here to help ensure your voice is heard!
* THIS POST IS IN NO WAY INTENDED TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE, TAX ADVICE, OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. PLEASE CONTACT OUR OFFICE TO SET UP A CONSULTATION AND TO EXECUTE AN ENGAGEMENT AND FEE AGREEMENT.