Do You Need an Estate Plan?

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POSTED ON: April 13, 2024

Estate planning is the process of getting assets organized during your lifetime, so they are efficiently and properly distributed after your passing. According to a recent article from The Record-Courier, “Estate planning a complex process,” it includes making decisions about fiduciaries, determining who will be in charge of your affairs if you become incapacitated and after you die, as well as who you want to be your beneficiary.

Everyone should have an estate plan, regardless of their age or the size of their estate. They are also not only for wealthy people. They give you control over financial and healthcare decisions during incapacity and ensures that your wishes are fulfilled, reducing the potential for family disputes and legal conflicts.

Multiple legal documents make up your estate plan, including wills, trusts and power of attorney. Core documents in include:

  • Will: a document specifying how your assets are to be distributed upon death and allowing for a nomination of a guardian for minor children.
  • Trust: a document creating a legal entity to hold and manage assets during your lifetime, in incapacity and after death through specific instructions.
  • Power of Attorney for financial decisions: a document granting another person, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, the authority to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: a document granting another person, also referred to as an agent or attorney-in-fact, the authority to make healthcare decisions.
  • Living Will: a document outlining end-of-life decisions.

What happens in the absence of an estate plan? In the case of incapacity, a court order may be needed to authorize a family member to make health and financial decisions. Upon death, with no plan, the state laws regarding the distribution of assets will be followed, regardless of your wishes.

Estate plans must be created and revised every three to five years. Unseen circumstances can arise at any time, and it’s best to have a plan in place so that when an emergency occurs, the right documents and plans are set.

Can you do an estate plan on your own? Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will avoid having a court find your estate plan invalid or having healthcare professionals tell your loved ones they cannot be involved in your care.

Estate planning can seem overwhelming. However, it can be managed, and having it done properly will alleviate a great deal of uncertainty for you and your family.

Schedule your phone meeting: THE LAW OFFICES OF CLAUDE S. SMITH, III

Reference: The Record Courier (Jan. 13, 2024) “Estate planning a complex process”

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