Life and Estate Planning – Part 1

We have all heard of tragic stories about fortunes lost or families torn apart upon a family member’s death or incapacity, often due to no or poor planning. So, why doesn’t everyone have their affairs in order? Human nature.

It is human nature to avoid unpleasant topics and experiences, such as disability and death. No one thinks it will happen to them. But every man, woman, and child on this earth will eventually experience death.

The good news is that life expediency is increasing with every medical innovation, so we can all expect to live longer. The bad news is that the longer we live, the greater the chance of wearing out physically, mentally or both. If this happens without a proper legal plan the court will step in and select someone to be the decision maker on your behalf. The court’s choice may not be individuals whom you would have selected.
Similarly, if you pass on without a will or trust, you are relinquishing the ability to control the estate that you have worked so hard for. The court will choose an administrator for your estate, who will distribute your property according to the state intestacy laws, regardless of any desires you may have expressed during life.

If you want to maintain control over your personal, health care and financial decisions should you become incapacitated and over your estate when you pass on, you need a proper Life and Estate Plan.

So what is a proper Life and Estate plan? There are three main types of Life and Estate planning documents are Powers of Attorney, Wills, and Trusts. When designed correctly, these three types of documents can provide a path to achieve the goals you set and provide a means to control your affairs in the event of incapacity. Over the next few months I will address each of these categories so you can learn what they are and why it is important to have them.
Even if you have a current plan in place, it must be properly maintained as important changes in your life, the lives of your loved ones, to your assets, as estate-planning rules, laws, and regulations change. Proper Life and Estate Planning is a lifetime process. Ask yourself. . .

Have I made proper legal plans to avoid losing control over my personal, health care and financial decisions should I become incapacitated?
Have I selected financial fiduciaries and am I confident they can handle the responsibilities and risks involved in serving?
Have I selected guardians for my minor children in the event they are orphaned?
Have I made arrangements in my Life and Estate Plan to safeguard, manage and distribute my assets to loved ones and favorite charities according to my wishes?

Proper Life and Estate Planning is a process, not simply a one-time event. You should periodically review your life and estate planning goals and legal documents. Here is a quick-reference list of some of the life changes or events that could alter your estate planning needs. If some areas apply to you or your family, then it may be time for an update.

  • Death or incapacity of a spouse, executor, trustee or guardian
  • Marriage, remarriage, or divorce
  • Substantial change in estate size
  • Move to another state
  • Acquisition or property in another state
  • Birth or adoption of child or grandchild
  • Serious illness of family member
  • Change in business interest or retirement
  • More than two years since you reviewed your plan with an attorney

 

 

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