I am often asked to prepare a single document. A will, a living will, a healthcare proxy or a revocable trust. Most often, clients are trying to save money. While, individually, each of these documents are important, it is crucial that these documents work together and be part of a plan. This plan can be very basic and inexpensive, yet still very important. For instance, a will is only operative on death. How will your affairs be handled if you are incapacitated? Most people will face some sort of incapacitation prior to death. There will be many financial and health related issues. Who will deal with them for you while you are incapacitated. Who will take care of your affairs after you have passed?
Estate planning is the process where an individual or family arranges the transfer and protection of their assets in preparation of both death or incapacity. A proper plan also addresses health care, guardianship of minor children and business planning. Two major goals of an estate plan are to preserve the maximum amount of wealth possible for the intended beneficiaries/heirs and to provide ease and flexibility in the handling of one’s affairs prior to and after death or incapacity. Estate planning is also effective for implementing important wishes and desires, such as end of life decisions and charitable donations. Estate planning involves the services of not just your attorney, but can involve the services of other professionals, including your accountant, financial planner, life insurance adviser, banker or mortgage broker.
A basic plan will include a will, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA release form and advance directive which is sometimes called a living will. Depending on one’s assets, family and estate tax situation, the plan might also include revocable or irrevocable trusts, homestead declarations, buy-sell agreements, and life insurance or pet trusts. Estate planning not only involves the creation of the proper documents, but also involves how one holds title to their assets such as real estate and bank accounts. The appropriate beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and other financial products, such as life insurance, are crucial to the effective implementation of an estate plan and probate avoidance.
Today we rely on the internet for a wealth of information and we are truly fortunate to live in such a wonderful age of dynamic communication. However, as powerful a tool as this information can be, it must be used prudently and cannot replace the experience and education of a trusted professional.
Please feel free to direct any questions to the comment section or contact us today for a free consultation.