Who Needs an Estate Plan?
You do—whether your estate is large or small. No matter the size of your estate, you should designate someone to manage your assets and make health care and personal care decisions for you if you ever become unable to do so for yourself.
With a small estate, you may simply focus on who will receive your assets after you die, and who should manage your estate, pay your last debts and handle the distribution of your assets. With a larger estate, your lawyer will also discuss various ways of preserving your assets for your beneficiaries and of reducing or postponing the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable after your death.
If you fail to implement an estate plan, a judge will simply appoint someone to handle your assets and personal care. This essentially means your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to a set of rules known as intestate succession. Still, they may not be your choice of heirs; an estate plan gives you much greater control over who will inherit your assets after your death. Why not give yourself the option to choose your own heirs?
DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING APPLY?
1. You want to choose your beneficiaries.
2. You want to provide for young or older children
3. You want to control who has custody of your child, should something unfortunate happen.
4. You want to make arrangements for handling your medical and financial affairs if you ever become incapacitated and can’t take care of yourself or your loved ones.
5. You want to avoid probate or other court proceedings required to turn over property to beneficiary.
6. You want to control the spending of children (and/or grandchildren) who may not be capable or experienced in managing money.
7. You want to provide for special needs children and grandchildren.
8. You are wealthy, and want to avoid estate taxes
9. You want to protect yourself from creditors and lawsuits.
10. You want to prevent or discourage challenges to your estate plan.
11. You want to control the release of your personal sensitive medical information.
12. You want to provide for burial instructions.
1. What happens to my assets if I die without a will?
If you die without a Will, the state will decide how your assets are distributed based on statutory law. Dying without a will is called “intestate succession.” Without a Will, you are unable to set up any specific bequests, the terms of a testamentary trust for minor children, share burial or funeral prearrangements or set up guardianship for your children, among other things.
2. What is the difference between a will and a living trust?
Both a will and a living trust are used to leave some or all of your property to the beneficiaries of your choice. A living trust is a legal document similar to a will in function, except it avoids probate or other court proceedings required to turn property over to beneficiaries.
3. What is a living will and health care proxy?
The Living Will allows you to state your wishes about medical treatment in the event that you develop an irreversible condition that prevents you from making your own medical decisions. The Health Care Proxy allows you to name someone to make decisions about your medical care, including decisions about life support, if you can no longer speak for yourself.
4. What is a Power of Attorney with Durable Provision?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document where one party (the Principal) authorizes another party (the Agent or the Attorney-in-fact) to act on his or her behalf during an absence. This authority can specifically include or exclude several areas of interest, including matters of physical property, real estate, banking, insurance, tax matters, etc.
Traditionally, this authority ends when you become medically incapacitated. However, you have the option to make the Power of Attorney (1) Durable which means it will remain effective from the time of signing the document and if you become medically incapacitated; or (2) Springing which means it will only be effective upon you becoming medically incapacitated
5. What is the Power of Attorney (Statutory Form)?
A Power of Attorney documents that you (the Principal) have given someone or an institution (an agent) the authority to spend your money and sell or dispose of your property during your lifetime without telling you. The optional Gifts Rider allows you to authorize your agent to make gifts in excess of an annual total of $500, which is the limit specified in the Power of Attorney. The Gifts Rider and the Power of Attorney it supplements is considered one legal document.
The Power of Attorney and Gifts Rider, if applicable, can be revoked at any time.
6. Where should I store my estate planning documents?
If you wish, you may provide the Estates Division of your county’s courthouse with a copy of your Last Will and Testament. Your estate will be administered in the county in which you are a resident upon your death. Do not put the original copy of the Will in a bank lockbox. This may create more work for your executor when he or she needs to obtain the Will. Where to store the documents is a personal decision based on your family’s circumstances. You may wish to provide a copy to your primary and secondary executors so that they know your wishes. Many clients choose to keep their estate planning documents in a fireproof safe in their home and provide copies to their executors or let them know where the documents are located.