What Would You Do?
Over 50% of Americans have no formal estate plan and most of us will suffer some period of disability during our lifetime. If you were to die or suffer a period of incapacity without proper planning your loved ones may be left with little or no guidance on how to handle your affairs.
- Who would care for your children?
- Would your family be able to access your financial resources and benefits?
- How would you want to be cared for?
- In the event of your death how would you want your assets distributed?
Who Needs An Estate Plan?
Every adult, regardless of their financial or family situation, needs some type of basic estate and incapacity planning. However, if you have children, have ever been divorced, are remarried, are a senior citizen, are in a same-sex relationship, own a business, or have a large estate, the need for planning becomes even more important.
No one wants to think about death or incapacity. But putting together a plan is probably easier than you think and will give you and your loved ones great peace of mind. Your estate plan should be customized to your specific needs and desires. A typical initial consultation will last an hour or more and we'll spend that time reviewing your personal and family situation, assets and wishes. I want to get to know my clients and their individual needs. Be very leery of attorneys and services that will offer you inexpensive forms and template based solutions; you're probably getting the same plan the person who walked in the door before you picked up. Here are a few of the documents I typically prepare for clients as part of a comprehensive estate plan:
Will: Generally directs how your estate will be administered upon your death.
Trust: Sometimes used in addition to a Will to provide additional flexibility. Trusts can be especially beneficial for clients who own property outside of the state, have larger or more complicated estates, wish to have more control over how their assets are distributed, or to provide their beneficiaries with creditor or estate tax protection.
Durable Power of Attorney: Allows you to appoint someone to assist in handling your personal or financial affairs in the event of your illness, absence or incapacity. This is probably the most critical document of an estate plan. The Power of Attorney laws have changed significantly in the last few years so if you have an older document it may be time for an update.
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate: Allows you to appoint a person who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Living Will: This document should not be confused with a will; it deals only with medical decisions, not property. Along with the Designation of Healthcare Surrogate it is sometimes referred to as an "advanced directive." Allows you to give directions to your healthcare surrogate and physicians on how you would like to be treated at the end of your life and whether you want certain medical procedures withheld in the event of a terminal illness.
HIPAA Authorization: These authorizations allow designated individuals to access your medical records and speak to your healthcare providers. This is important in the event you become hospitalized or incapacitated so trusted family and friends can learn about your condition and make arrangements for your care.
Designation of Pre-Need Guardian: In the event a guardian ever has to be appointed to help you manage your affairs, this document allows you to designate who you would like to serve as that person. This document is especially important for unmarried persons.
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate for Child: Do you ever leave your child with a trusted friend or family member? This document will allow specific persons to consent to medical treatment for your child in the event you cannot be reached.
Designation of Pre-Need Guardian for Child: This document specifies your preference for who would care for your children in the event you are unable.
Want More Information?
We have a number of resources available through this website to help you: