Creating an estate plan should be treated as a priority.
What people value can be see in what they actually prioritize.
Students can say their education is important to them but spend little time studying.
Athletes who do not practice demonstrate they do not want to improve or win.
According to a recent The Street article titled “Everyone Needs an Estate Plan,” those who say they want to protect their loved ones, but do not have an estate plan, are sending the wrong message.
An estate plan serves multiple purposes in preparation for incapacity and death.
Without one in place, you leave your family with challenging decisions, costly expenses, and emotional turmoil.
When preparing for your eventual death, you should prioritize your last will and testament.
Although it is essential for directing asset distribution through probate, it is also key when designating individuals to serve in important roles like executor and guardians.
An executor is the individual in charge of administering your estate according to the instructions provided in your last will.
The guardians are those who will rear your children if orphaned.
Fail to nominate the guardians you prefer and the court will make the call by default.
Because the judge does not have an intimate knowledge and understanding of your family dynamics, the judge may choose someone with different values and priorities than your own.
What if you have no minor children, but to have pets?
A last will allows you to designate a caretaker for these furry, feathered, or scaled members of the family.
To ensure your pet receives continuity of care, it can be beneficial to also create a pet trust.
With a pet trust, you can set aside money to be used as instructed for the care of your pets.
The incapacity planning elements of estate planning should also be treated as a priority.
To begin, you will want an advance health care directive.
Through this document, you can outline your wishes for health care treatments should you be unable to communicate them at the time care is needed.
This is especially important for end-of-life care.
Certain things you need to address include what artificial means of life support you would like, how you would like your pain managed, and whether you would like to be an organ donor.
Instead of leaving your loved ones wondering whether they are making the correct choice, outline your wishes in advance.
A general durable power of attorney is also essential to incapacity planning.
With this document, you designate an agent, known as an attorney in fact, to act on your behalf financially and legally.
Depending on the range of matters you would like this individual to handle on your behalf, you can grant limited or broad authority.
In addition to a general durable power of attorney, you will need a durable power of attorney for health care matters and a HIPAA authorization.
Similar to your general durable power of attorney, a durable power of attorney for health care matters allows you to designate a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Without a HIPAA authorization, your loved ones will not have access to your medical records and will not be able to discuss your situation with your physician.
Without estate planning, you will leave your loves ones vulnerable.
Make finding and working with an experienced estate planning attorney a priority this new year.
Reference: The Street (Nov. 22, 2021) “Everyone Needs an Estate Plan”