Proper estate planning is important and you should always consult with your attorney to ensure your wishes will be properly met. Everyone needs an estate plan, whether it is simple or complex. Even if you have a plan you should review it every few years to make sure it is current, and always when you have a major life change, such as getting married/divorced, having a child, or retiring. An estate plan is not simply planning for how to handle matters after death, but it also includes planning for what may arise during your lifetime.
Your estate is everything you own. This could be your residence, vacation home, stock, automobiles, jewelry, pictures, and the like. If it belongs to you then it is part of your estate. This may include assets you hold jointly with another person, such as your spouse.
“But I already have a will,” you say. A will alone is not enough; it is only one piece of an estate plan. A will is only an instrument that dictates how you want your assets divided and managed. It does not transfer ownership of any of your assets; this must be done with court order unless you have worked with an attorney to set up your estate plan. With proper planning, many of your assets can be put into a trust or properly titled so that upon your death or incapacity, your assets are immediately available or transferred to your heirs. It is important that you consult with an attorney to make sure your will really says what you want to happen. In addition, you can prevent most, if not all, of your estate from being forced into probate where part of your assets must then go to pay the court, attorney, and personal representative who manage your estate.
Guardianship, estate taxes,
- Protect your assets from being lost to taxes, nursing home expenses, guardianship fees, and probate.
- State your wishes in advance so that your loved ones are provided for according to your wishes.
- Ensure you maintain independence should you become disabled or incapacitated and need long-term care.
- Name someone in advance to manage your affairs and care for you should you need long-term care.
- Name someone to be the guardian of minor children and provide for their care without the need for a public guardianship managed by the court.
An estate plan generally covers and includes the following (click on the link for more information on each topic):
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- Planning for Minor Children
- Charitable Giving
- Special Needs
- Planning for Probate
- Planning for Guardianship
- Pre-need Guardianship Designation