Although nobody wants to think about death or disability, establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Proper estate planning not only allows you to choose who has authority to assist you and how your assets should be handled, but it also can alleviate possible frustrations for you and your loved ones.
PROVIDING FOR INCAPACITY
Many people are under the impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them if they become incapacitated. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The truth is they must petition a court to declare you legally incompetent before they can access and manage your financial affairs. This process can be lengthy, costly, and stressful. In order for your family, or someone else you trust, to immediately take over for you if needed, you must have in place the proper legal documents.
A plan for your medical care should also be established. The law allows you to select someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to do so. This is done with a Health Care Surrogate Designation. Additionally, you should have a Living Will. A Living Will informs others of your preferred medical treatment options, such as the use of extraordinary measures, in the event certain medical criteria are met.
Although probate can be useful and appropriate in some circumstances, many people want to avoid probate for the benefit of their loved ones. The probate process may be expensive, time-consuming, and open to the public. With our analysis and proper planning, your assets can pass on to your loved ones without undergoing probate in a private, quick, and inexpensive manner.
PROVIDING FOR MINOR CHILDREN
It is important that your estate plan address issues regarding the care of your minor children.
If in the event something happens to you and your spouse at the same time, a contingency plan should name a guardian you trust to raise your children. The guardian in charge of your children does not have to be the same person, or trustee, who oversees your finances, and in many cases, you may want to purposely designate different people to maintain a system of checks and balances.
When no plan is in place, the determination of who will manage your finances and raise your children will be left to the court.