Nearly everyone has an estate. Your estate consists of all the property, whether personal or real estate, that you own. For example, your estate can consist of such property as your home, car, house, savings accounts, checking accounts, life insurance, investments, and personal possessions. No matter how big or small, you have an estate. An estate which you can’t take with you upon your passing.
Upon your passing you probably would want to make that your possessions will be given to the individuals or organizations you care most about. To make certain your wishes are followed you must provide written directives expressing whom you would like to receive your property, exactly what property you want them to receive, and when they can receive it.
With the right planning this could happen with the minimum amount taxes, legal fees, and court costs.
So what is estate planning? It’s making a plan in advance of your passing. Naming the individuals or organizations you want to receive your property after you pass away.
Estate planning is much more than that. It can also:
- Include instructions for passing your values(religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
- Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
- Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
- Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
- Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
- Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.
There are documents that can be prepare while you are in good health that will lay the groundwork for answering all of these questions, and many others. These documents are your legal roadmap for what happens “if.”
- The Will or Last Will and Testament sets forth your choices and decisions affecting your assets upon your death and lists your trusted representative.
- A Durable Power of Attorney is effective so long as you are alive, and gives a designated person permission to sign documents or deal with companies on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
- A Living Will or Health Care Surrogacy designates an individual to make your health care decisions for you, which decisions you can list in the document to give your surrogate direction when you are unable to do so.
- The Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian lets everyone know who you choose to have guardianship of you, your assets, and even your children should you become incapacitated.
- The Medical Records Privacy Waiver directs medical personnel to release your health information to the individual you designate.
These documents primarily direct your wishes should you become incapacitated or upon your death. There are additional documents that may be necessary depending on your specific situation. It is best to meet with our experienced counsel to create a plan that best fits your situation.
A trust helps managing your property while you are still alive, but is also a useful tool to help plan for your wishes after your death.
After a family member passes, you may need an attorney to assist you with probating the estate. Probate is the administration of a deceased individual’s property and debts with the court.