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What Is Estate Planning and When Should I Do It?

Did you know that roughly half of Americans don’t have a will, and even less than that have an estate plan? If you don’t have a plan in place, you aren’t alone, but it is important to make these arrangements sooner rather than later.

Thinking about what will happen when we pass away isn’t something any of us particularly like thinking about, but it is extremely important for us and our loved ones to have a plan in place in case of such events. To protect your wishes and your family members, arranging your estate now will prepare you and your entire family for the future. It’s never too early to have a plan in place, and making these decisions now makes you prepared for the future, whatever it might hold.

So, you might be asking yourself, what does an estate plan mean? Don’t I just need a will? Planning your estate is more than preparing a will. While that is a component of this plan, there are many other decisions to make. Typically, people start planning their estates when a major life event occurs, like having a child or a death in the family, but the best time to prepare is when you can make these decisions carefully with the help of a professional. The following are each aspect of estate planning you should consider when connecting with an attorney to plan your estate.

What is a Will?

Briefly, a will is a legal document that outlines the distribution of your assets after death. This also includes who will be responsible for carrying out the provisions of the will – an executor, as well as beneficiaries, instructions for how and when beneficiaries receive assets and guardians for minor children.

What is a Trust?

A trust is primarily useful in a well-crafted estate plan for minimizing taxes and transferring assets more quickly than a will alone. Trusts can be passed outside of probate, meaning less time, court fees, and taxes for beneficiaries. A trust also keeps your privacy secure when you are no longer capable of controlling it yourself. Probate is public record, so having a trust can keep your assets outside of this process to remain private.

What is Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney authorizes someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are incapable of making decisions. This authority is only awarded if it is determined by your doctor that you are incapable of making decisions, or you are unable to communicate your wishes. This measure ensures your wishes are considered and carried out if you are unable to communicate yourself. Including this in your plan gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected.

What is a Living Will?

A living will expresses your wishes regarding medical treatment in very specific situations. Different from medical power of attorney, a living will does not appoint anyone to make decisions for you. A living will only applies if you are in a terminal condition, or in a permanent unconscious condition. This document outlines your wishes regarding life support, tube feeding, pain medications and more for specific situations.

These are only some of the important decisions to make with an attorney regarding your estate and wishes. Partnering with a knowledgeable attorney to make these decisions is crucial for making sure your plans are carried out per your wishes. These are big decisions in any person’s life, so make sure you hire the right team to help you in the process. It’s never too early to plan your estate, and doing so guarantees you have control over all decisions in case you are ever in a situation where you can’t verbalize your requests. When you’re ready to get started on your estate plan, our team would be happy to talk to you about your goals, wishes, and assets. We help make sure all of your decisions are legal and in place for when you need them.