Estate Planning is a process of making plans for your property and assets in the event you die. A comprehensive plan can ensure that all your wishes are met, while also protecting you from legal and financial liabilities.
It can help you minimize taxes, avoid mistakes, and adjust your plans as time goes on or your circumstances change. A qualified attorney or tax advisor can help you create a plan that meets your needs now and in the future.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is a process that helps an individual plan how they want their assets and property distributed when they die or become incapacitated. This may include making a will, setting up trusts, and avoiding a tax burden on your heirs.
A properly completed Estate Plan can also help prevent misunderstandings and disputes between family members regarding distributions. This can save you and your loved ones a lot of heartache and stress.
A complete Estate Plan is made up of several documents, each of which addresses a specific situation and sets out your final wishes. It is important to review these documents regularly, and to update them whenever major life events occur, such as the birth of a child or marriage.
Wills & Trusts
Wills and trusts can help you accomplish a variety of goals. They can help you avoid probate, prevent family conflicts and protect your assets.
Wills can list who will receive what property when you die, name guardians for minor children and appoint an executor to administer your estate. They can also help you address your preferences for how you want to distribute your assets, including who will take care of a loved one with special needs, who will inherit income only at certain times and who will manage your assets if you become mentally incapacitated.
Whether you choose to create a will or trust, it’s important to discuss your situation with an estate planning attorney. He or she will explain the benefits of each type and recommend a plan that meets your specific needs.
Power of Attorney
Powers of Attorney, or POA, allow you to appoint someone (known as your “agent”) to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot do so yourself. The person you designate to be your agent can be family, a friend or a professional.
Choosing who you trust to act as your agent can be tricky, but it is important to do so carefully. You want to make sure that they will be able to fulfill their role without being overwhelmed by your responsibilities or feeling pressured by your wishes.
If you’re not sure how to go about making this decision, consult with a distinguished trusts and estates lawyer. They will be able to help you understand the different types of powers that are available and what is best for your situation.
There are several different kinds of Powers of Attorney, but the most common is a Durable Power of Attorney. A durable POA allows the agent to act on your behalf even if you become incapacitated and can no longer communicate or make decisions for yourself.
Health Care Directives
Health care directives (also known as advance care planning) help you communicate your preferences for end-of-life care if you become unable to make decisions on your own. Having these documents in place can alleviate the stress and strain on your loved ones by ensuring that your wishes are respected at an often difficult time.
The best way to begin is to talk with your physician. This person can review your health history and help you phrase your requests in a way that makes sense to other medical professionals.
You may need to change your directives over time, for instance when you are diagnosed with a new illness or disease that alters your condition. Your personal values and opinions about end-of-life care may also evolve over the years, so it’s a good idea to periodically review your documents to make sure they still reflect your current views.