If you already have an estate plan, well done! Granted, life brings changes. Those changes can necessitate updates to your plan. Your estate-planning attorney can help make sure your wishes remain in effect. For everyone else, we often see two types of people: those who say, “I need to do that” and those who ask, “Do I really need an estate plan?”
If you fall in that former group, maybe reading this is your sign. You know you need to develop an estate plan. If tragedy strikes unexpectedly, it will be too late. Pick up the phone, and set up a consult with an estate-planning attorney. It is the end of the year, but even if the hustle and bustle of the holidays has your schedule packed, you can likely set an appointment for January. What a great way to begin a new year, marking that off your list.
Regarding the latter group, just about everyone needs some sort of planning in place. An estate plan is more than just a will. It’s a full plan for not only after your death but also in case of incapacity, addressing how your financial affairs are managed and who makes your medical decisions.
Terri Schaivo was a woman in her 20s, and in 1990, she was suddenly struck ill and lapsed into a persistent vegetative state. For over seven years, her husband and parents fought fierce court battles, involving state and federal courts, Congress, and the president. The issues revolved around what Terri would have wanted. They did not know because Terri did not have a Living Will. She was young. Before she suddenly became ill, she was healthy. Many of us think it cannot happen to us, but we cannot be certain. Planning now might save your loved ones from a lot of frustrations, spent money, and grief.
On the financial side of incapacity, if something happens and you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney in place, your loved ones might have to go through court proceedings to have a guardian appointed to manage your affairs. Court supervision and reports will be required. Costs will likely add up. The person appointed might not be whom you wanted. Estate planning today could prevent that.
Estate planning also involves wills and trusts. Which is better for you depends individually on you and your family. Seeing an attorney dedicated to estate planning can be ideal—someone who knows whether your family will be best provided for with a will-based plan or one that might include a Revocable Living Trust or a Testamentary Trust and maybe a Standalone Retirement Trust. Your attorney can help you understand the differences among those and explain why one might better help achieve your objectives.
The purpose of planning is to be prepared, whether life runs its course or tragedy strikes unexpectedly. And estate planning is not only about taxes. Nor is it just for the wealthy. It is definitely not only for those in retirement. Why not start 2018 off by doing this for you and your family?
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